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Council Approves Zero Percent Municipal Tax Increase

West Orange's $70.4 million budget passed 4-1, with Councilman Joe Krakoviak the lone dissenting voice.

 

Municipal taxes will not increase for a third year in a row in West Orange. 

The township council passed a $70.4 million municipal budget on Tuesday with a zero percent tax increase. The final vote came a week after the council decided to cut an originally proposed in the budget. 

“This budget is a very lean budget,” said Councilman Jerry Guarino. “You can’t remove anymore from this budget.”

A homeowner with an average single-family house valued at about $339,000 can expect to pay approximately $2,900 in municipal taxes. This budget is $1.8 million less than last year’s budget, and about $2.7 million under the state mandated cap. 

There will be no layoffs this year. However, the township will shed 26 full-time positions from its payroll, including not filling four vacant positions in the police department. 

The budget passed 4-1, with Councilman Joe Krakoviak casting the dissenting vote.

Krakoviak was very vocal about how the administration got the zero percent tax increase, and the township’s future investment in police and fire departments. He maintained that the savings could be coming at a cost to public safety. 

“I am very concerned about the way the administration is proposing to [maintain] the zero percent increase,” said Krakoviak. “... “If you do want a zero tax increase ... you have to make priorities. You have to figure out what are the must-haves and what are the nice-to-haves, and go forward.”

The number of police officers has dropped from its high in 2006, from 122 employees to 92. The trend goes for firemen as well, which dropped from 93 in 2006 to 78 in 2012.

The other council members had differing opinions on the final budget.  

“I don’t see that we are jeopardizing safety,” said Councilwoman Susan McCartney. “I respectfully disagree.” 

Councilwoman Patricia Spango said the effect of increasing budgets for the police or fire departments would draw funding away from other departments. 

“In 2012, we are going to have to make really serious decision as to what services might have to be given up if we fill these positions now,” said Spango.

Mayor Robert Parisi said that, “It is not our plan to gut our police department." Parisi insisted that the overall decrease in township employees is due to rising pension and benefit costs, while contending with falling revenues. The trend, he said, is a reflection of what the township can afford.

These costs will continue to increase next year to an estimated $5 million deficit. The effect, said Parisi, may be the reduction of serives or departments if the costs are not kept under control. 

“We have so drastically cut our employee base ... we are, at this point, going to be mixing and matching,” said Parisi, and the township may have to decide what departments it wants to maintain. 

Alan Sanders August 30, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I have this question: Just what is the value of likes on a W.O. FB page? Is value or lack thereof simply a matter of conjecture or is there a concrete way to know? If likes that come from sharing the page reflect new interest in the town that will likely yield tangible benefit, fine, but if it's just a favor or out of obligation, it seems to me that it's meaningless.
Gary Englert August 30, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Alan Sanders: If a member "likes" a facebook page, he/she is automatically subscribed to that page's news feeds and receives the notifications that are published on it. Essentially, the "likes" represents a cadre of people who are automatically receiving the messages/information posted in real time.
Gary Englert August 30, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Sue Freivald: Sue, please, you're NOT part of "Team Krakoviak?" Listen, my good woman, I've been rather highly trained in target recognition, acquisition and engagement and, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck and acts like a duck...the chances are it's a frigging duck! Whatever the lingering results of last spring's election, do accept the existence of "Team Krakoviak" and your being an inseparable part of it, is a part of the legacy. I know, I wouldn't be all too happy about it either! :-) As to my "losing" anything, let alone this argument, your standards are clearly not as stringent as mine. Again, my recurring challenge to one and all is to make your case...and you've provided not a shred of anything that's remotely that and certainly nothing actionable. For me to adequately assess this situation...and to determine what blame or citicism might be due in any direction...I'd need to examine all the relevant contracts, resolutions, work product and payment vouchers...and then, and only then, could I say with any degree of accuracy whether or not something is amiss. If you have any or all of the aforementioned, please upload to a file sharer and post a link so the group can review them. The suggestion that there is any broad-based, municipal mismanagement of programs or funds, based on your thus far unproven allegation about this financially miniscule, public relations initiative, is simply nonsense.
Alan Sanders August 30, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I think if every prospective buyer of a house in W.O. or new patron of a business (this more difficult) provided the answer to the question: What caused you to consider W.O. or to check out our business, and if FB turned up as a reason, we'd then have some measure of the page's effectiveness/value. Other than that, it seems very fuzzy to me.
Gary Englert August 30, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Alan Sanders: Do keep in mind that the Internet (and web based searches) are all about "tagging" and "hits." The more varied the former (directing people your way) and the more numerous the latter, the more prominent and often will the subject at hand come up in a search. It's a matter of cummulative effect and the more positive things concerning West Orange, NJ that are out there, the more prominent we'll be. Do a web search for anyone or entity you choose and my guess that their facebook page (if they're on it) will be among the top half-dozen items that come up.
Gary Englert August 30, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Alan Sanders: The "likes" indicates the number of subscribers to the site; people who are actually receiving notices and postings from that site on their own news feed. Essentially, it indicates how many people are automatically receiving the information/updates that are posted.
Sue Freivald August 30, 2012 at 09:03 PM
For starters/laughs, you don't back up what you say, so it is totally laughable that you should demand anyone else to prove anything! And silly that you think I should feel the need to justify myself to you. You're wrong and won't admit it so hide behind "uh, um, prove it!" It's all PUBLIC INFO, sir. And I don't care about proving it to you--duh! What's true is true whether Gary Englert admits it or not--what value is there in trying to convince YOU? None--we've already seen you make the point for me inadvertently and now you're trying to claim it's a lie--no one's convinced. And I hate to break it to you, but, it's not you I'm out to convince. It's those reading this that have been already convinced that the marketing plan to pay for FB, among other things, was probably poorly conceived/managed. The marketing plan involved paying for things that should have been (and are now being done for) free, which is silly, so the overall point that the budget may contain more such gems is also pretty strongly supported. And it's looking stronger with each of your posts. I know my facts, and you don't--peeing right into the administration's tent, even if unknowingly. What I don't get is that now that you DO know you're doing it, why don't you stop? Don't you like the folks in that tent? ;)
Sue Freivald August 30, 2012 at 09:08 PM
But as a favor to you, even though you could find this out yourself, I have requested payment details, and I'm willing to not only document but to fully explain/describe the history/course of the whole marketing plan for our audience (if anyone is still reading, which I doubt.) As you suggested, I can post all the details and documentation of how the marketing plan was executed somewhere, or I can put it all into a long Patch blog with accompanying documentation and post that. Do you have a preference? It will take me some time to be thorough, but will more than answer your questions. Or would you rather just apologize for implying that I lie, admit without qualifications that unwise decisions might have been made that were not the fault of Team Krakoviak or anyone other than those who made those decisions, and we can smile and be done? If you continue "posting inflammatory and defamatory nonsense" about me publicly then I simply have to defend myself against you publicly--any peripheral embarrassment to any people or entities is on you, though.
Alan Sanders August 30, 2012 at 09:17 PM
In the comment above, I should have also said prospective tenant, in addition home buyer or new customer. Now this may be reinventing the wheel, but it seems to me that if we pay for a service like a new or maintained Facebook page, the bidders, or potential service providers, should, in addition to naming specific deliverables, should declare what value their services will provide and how this will be measured. When it comes to maintenance, the answer that it will maintain functionality should not be acceptable, but why we should maintain the functionality, in other words what's in it for W.O.
Gary Englert August 30, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Sue Freivald: As I am not the one suggesting this public relations initiative was ill-conceived, poorly executed/managed and a waste of taxpayer money, it is not incumbent upon me to prove it wasn't. It is, however, incumbent upon you to prove your premise and suggesting you do so is NOT calling you a liar. Again, my oft stated challenge is that anyone with evidence of malfeasance, misfeasance or criminality should bring their proofs to the appropriate authority. Finally, if I am posting "inflamatory or derogatory nonsense" about you, I fail to see where. Anyone lacking the stones to do so should bring them to me and I'll do it for them. Anyone suggesting I wouldn't, in order ro protect my "friends" has no basis for any such conclusion as the premise has never been tested.
Raymond Helfrich August 30, 2012 at 09:45 PM
I'm still reading. (But I refer to the ill-conceived, hardly defined, poorly executed/managed, haphazardly targeted, misdirected, unscientific, waste of taxpayer money, as the "marketing" "plan".)
Sue Freivald August 30, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Fine, I'll start writing it all up and getting docs, emails, etc online. Though you're the only one alleging malfeasance or criminality--I prefer to think of it as well-intentioned mismanagement. (Actually, I don't at all know what to call thinking MyTown's proposal could do free things THAT much better for $7500 in the first place--wishful thinking?) For starters, see June 28, 2011 video here: http://www.westorangegrassroots.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=133%3Acouncil-approves-32500-marketing-initiative-in-split-vote&catid=49%3Acouncil-meeting-video&Itemid=1 MyTown proposal here: http://krakoviak.com/docs/MyTown.pdf Meeting minutes here: http://www.westorange.org/archives/36/6-28-11.pdf
Sue Freivald August 30, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I will find a Watercooler post I did on this last year, but for starters, see June 28, 2011 video here (worth watching!) http://www.westorangegrassroots.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=133%3Acouncil-approves-32500-marketing-initiative-in-split-vote&catid=49%3Acouncil-meeting-video&Itemid=1 MyTown proposal here: http://krakoviak.com/docs/MyTown.pdf
Gary Englert August 30, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Sue Freivald: For someone who I think is a reasonably bright person, you do seem to read a great deal into the written word, rather than just absorbing what's actually said. I am not alleging anything at all, only suggesting that anyone with misfeasance (which is what YOU ARE alleging), malfeasance OR criminality should certainly address them in an appropriate and I've practiced precisely what I preach. Each of us have our own life experience and frame of reference so, considering the roads I've travelled, this matter is so much ado about nothing that I really can't get very excited about it. If soley for my benefit, please don't bother to post video links of Council meetings as I'd rather watch grass grow; the documents are really what is germane, not people expounding personal opinions a a prelude to a vote.
Gary Englert August 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Sue Frievald: OK, first and foremost, the detail provided in My Town's proposal concerning Social Media calls for significantly more than than simply setting up and maintaining a facebook page; a You Tube and twitter account are also part of the deal. Not for nothing, I've uploaded videoto You Tube and it is a time consuming process, even with a late model, high-speed computer, and I have one. There's also a great deal more they're providing for the $1,500 upfront/$500 per month including the loan of video equipment to merchants wishing to promote theri businesses...just sayin.
wohopeful August 31, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Ms. Freivald, a great many of the real taxpayers in West Orange agree with you that this administration has been fiscally irresponsible with our monies, from the wasteful $120k the mayor tried to secure for a skatepark for his son to the ill fated marketing plan. I would urge you to consider running for mayor in 2014. The time has come for WO to have a strong woman in charge and your qualifications of managing your household will be most appealing among the electorate. Lastly, please remember that Mr. Englert is a senior and his memory and judgement skills have been impaired with age. No need to continue to kick an old dog when it is already down.
Will Rod August 31, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Sue, thank you for your comments. Very informative. Im sure the waste is plentiful. Please please please keep up the good fight. I intend to join you shorty. Frankly, I'm sick of this. Will Rodriguez, CFP, CIMA.
Sue Freivald August 31, 2012 at 01:46 AM
It's OK, go watch grass grow, sir, or go talk to the many parents whose children upload videos to YouTube everyday and ask if their kids can help you--it is neither a difficult nor labor-intensive process for the savvy 12-yr-old. ;) We're done here till I've finished what you asked me to do. You want to focus on the minutiae, but you told me to support what I claim, so I'll take all the details and put them into a big (documented) picture of what this plan was (and wasn't), what the metrics were (and weren't) and what it delivered (and didn't.) I'll post when I'm done, no worries, and let you know. My picture of the marketing plan process may then speak to the overall point, which is whether it was a wise plan begin with, and, if the marketing plan was a poor decision, is it a wise decision to continue with another $40K this year and call it a *necessity* when 26 positions are being cut and a $5 million deficit looms? Are there other unwise decisions lurking in the budget that the Council missed, and should we still assume that the budget really is just fine as it is? I know what your answer will be, but others may come to their own conclusions. Enjoy your weekend!
Gary Englert August 31, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Sue Freivald: First, while I'm reasonably sure there are plenty of savy 12 year olds more computer literate than I, and easily far more proficient playing video games, I'm far more proficient with them than most. That said, the You Tube video uploads I've done in the recent past haven't 3 to 5 minute clips but, hour length productions. Typically, the upload time is 3x the length of the video and You Tube's processing time can take 2-3x the length of the video. The process itself isn't taxing but, it must be monitored. I am far from focusing on minutae: the initial accusation being bandied about was that the Township paid "$1,500 down and $500 to set up and maintain a facebook page" and, clearly, the proposal suggests we were supposed to get a lot more than that...no? Still, you continue to advance the idea that this handing of the $40,000 appropriation is indicative of other financial faux pas that demand public scrutiny and I simply think that's absolute nonsense; there's simply not all that much discretionary spending in the municipal budget. Again, if this is all that Team Krakoviak has come up with after nearly two years on the Council, I am not at all impressed.
john anthony prignano August 31, 2012 at 03:58 AM
This is a public forum ! This incessant petty bickering and non - stop one- upsmanship is undoubtedly hurting West Orange's image.
Sue Freivald August 31, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Alan--though I will answer a lot of these questions in the thorough write-up Gary has asked of me, I wanted to jump in to say I find that you have excellent questions in general (and infinite patience!) and excellent questions on the FB/marketing plan in particular here. You wrote: "FB: 430 or so likes represents 1% of the town's population. After 1 year, is that success?" Most would say no, but here's the kicker--the town never defined (in contracts, in meetings, at all) *what success would look like* for the marketing plan. The FB page was pitched as a way to attract people to move here and to increase business--informing the residents was, if anything, a side mention. Well, obviously our FB lends itself more to informing people in the town than acting as a real-estate or business mover. And the focus has been on increasing the "like" count--to what end? No one really knows, because no one defined the "end"--more home sales? More business traffic? Happier residents? How would we measure any of those if they were the goal? What would make WO consider the marketing initiative "successful" or "ineffective?" No one wanted to define any of this at the outset, though Jake and others asked. So now, we're left debating whether the number of "likes" is good, without anyone being able to define what benefit WO gets from "likes." And you're right, the FB page is not reaching significantly outside of WO.
Sue Freivald August 31, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Thank you! :)
Alex Sohn August 31, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Thanks for the links. It was interesting to revisit the video excerpted from the 28 June 2011 meeting. Does the woman serving as project manager (the PIO) have marketing experience? Do we know her educational background and professional experience in the marketing field? She seems to be the one who developed the marketing plan and hired 3 or 4 different firms to handle various aspects of her vision. The Town Council seems to glaze over when offered any glossy brochure presentation (Prism comes to mind) and vote to fork over taxpayer money on that alone. Where's the accountablity here? Does it lie with the PIO? With the Council? Who's on top of this thing?
Gary Englert August 31, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Alex Sohn: The Township's Public Information Officer, Jessica Glicker, would appear to be more than qualified for the position. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Delaware, an MA in Public Communication fro American University in Washington, DC and was a producer for Fox News for more than a decade. The Council must approve any and all appropriations and expenditures of Township funds; while the Administation and its professional staff are responsible for operations and program mangement.
Alex Sohn August 31, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Journalism and communications by education and Fox News producer by professional experience? I guess the answer to the first question about professional marketing experience is "no", then. Thanks.
Sue Freivald August 31, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Alex, I'm with you on the video--that was the first Council meeting video i watched, and I was pretty annoyed that they didn't table it and/or take a hard look before voting for such vague contracts with all those excluded expenses after all that was brought up. So I admit, this little plan is a pet interest of mine--it was the first time really delved into the town side of things. Ms. Glicker is a hardworking PIO, but recital of her resume aside, journalism is not marketing, nor is producing, and I don't think she would ever try to claim it was. I think she makes a passing reference to her lack of marketing experience in that video, or it might have been another meeting later on--this is partly why she kept pointing out that Catania would provide the marketing "strategizing" and expertise for the plan. As for Prism, that is the other end of the spectrum--but from tiny little marketing plan vendors to big huge redevelopment plan developers, the reaction does seem consistent, I agree. But when a recycling company came forth and basically begged to pay WO more than the current vendor to lease/run our recycling site, the council was not so eager to consider. I wish I could figure out the pattern!
Alex Sohn August 31, 2012 at 09:56 PM
BA in journalism, MA in public communications, 10 years professional experience in production at Fox News. So the answer to documentable marketing training or experience is "no" - no marketing creds. Thanks.
Gary Englert September 02, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Alex Sohn: Mrs. Glicker surely has the requisite credentials to serve as the Township's Public Information Officer and the Administration's decision to have her act as the POC for the public relations/marketing inititiative would appear both reasonable and fiscally prudent. While I must reserve judgment on the specifics of the matter (whether the program was well conceived and coordinated with the money well spent, etc.) pending more information, it shouldn't be beyond her capacity to manage a budget smaller than the cost of the average residential kitchen renovation. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700219729/Kitchen-remodeling-trends-for-2012.html?pg=all That said, I think it is somewhat unseemly for anyone to denigrate the credentials and expertise of another, without presenting any of their own which would attest to their personal expertise in any discipline. While likely not her primary duties at Fox, I'm reasonably sure a TV producer has some budgetary oversight and that their work product is often marketed, both in-house and elsewhere. Does that make her an expert in the field? Perhaps not but, my guess is she has more than passing familiarity with it.
Alex Sohn September 02, 2012 at 05:21 PM
If a homeowner were to undertake a kitchen remodel, he'd most like hire an architect with some training and experience in kitchen remodeling - who would ask the high school kid who mows his lawn or the guy who built his deck or painted his house to oversee the project? From the SLC, UT link for kitchen remodeling trends for 2012 (thanks for the link) "Minor kitchen remodels that cost under $20,000 see a return on investment of 72 percent on a national average." "Not surprisingly, since 2004, when Minor Kitchen Remodel was added to the project list for the Remodeling Magazine's COST VS VALUE report, it has been the best-performing project in every year but one." What is the Cost v. Value for this budgeted $40K image remodeling campaign? What is the ROI for the taxpayer? Councilwoman Spango stated that such a campaign could save her business (as she stated 25:45 into the video linked in SF's post) some $6000-$8000 on an advertising campaign for her pizza joint. That's all well and good for her but what's in it for the beleaguered taxpayers footing the bill? While 3 of the 4 voting Councillors (one Councilman recused himself) mentioned that the resolution before the Council didn't contain the information being presented by the vendors at the lectern (Anderton, Krakoviak, and Spango agreed that the resolution needed to be amended), when it came time for the vote, two out of the three glazed over and voted "Aye" on it as written - it passed 3-1.
Gary Englert September 02, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Alex Sohn: I'm disinclined to believe the typical homeowner would hire (let alone need to) hire an architect to design and supervise a typical kitchen or bathroom remodeling; absent there being structural redesign (removal of load bearing walls or an addition to the existing footprint) part of the equation. Working in concert with a competent general contractor, an average homeowner can express their desires and be satisified with the results. Accordingly, I don't think an industry specific professional needs to be engaged to oversee a $40K marketing/branding/advertising budget spread over four vendors; Mrs. Glicker should be more than equal to the task. Kudos to you for viewing a year old Council meeting. I prefer rich, strong coffee but, there isn't enough caffeine in the world to keep me awake enough. Are there reasonable question to be asked and answered concerning this initiative? Sure...and those of you so greatly concerned should have at it. I don't think it's of all that much consequence (financially or otherwise), nor do I think it's indicative of any widespread mismanagement of municipal funds or programs; there just simply isn't all that much discretionary spending in which their could be.

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