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Township Introduces $70 Million Budget with Tax Increase

Budget includes 1.5 percent tax increase

The township will see its first municipal tax increase in two years after the township council introduced a roughly $70.7 million budget for 2012-13 Tuesday night with a 1.5 percent tax increase.

West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi said the hike was necessary to deal with a revenue shortfall.

"The last two years we had straight zeros, in a way, we're paying for that now," Parisi told an auditorium full of residents during last night's township council meeting.

The budget is roughly $2 million less than .

Business administrator Jack Sayers said the projected impact on the taxpayer is an increase of $66 a year in municipal taxes per average household. The average home is assessed at roughly $340,000, he said. He calculated the municipal tax rate to be 0.916.

Of the $70.2 million budget, Sayers said $52 million would be raised by taxes, compared to $51 million last year.

Though Parisi called the tax increase "regrettable," he said the 1.5 percent spike would help mitigate "potential problems in 2013."

Parisi said the problem this year is a revenue not a spending issue as the budget cuts spending to 2008 levels.

"We had to use some reserves last year and we started with less revenue this year," Parisi said. "We did not believe it was appropriate to eliminate jobs to close that gap."

The budget, so far, does not include plans to layoff personnel but Parisi warned layoffs could loom once again next year.

"There's a very real possibility we'll have job cuts next year," he said.

In 2011, 48 employees — including — were laid off to balance a $3.4 million deficit.

The township will host several public hearings before adopting the final budget. No dates have yet been set.

Adam Kraemer March 22, 2012 at 12:55 AM
The West Orange School budget both capital and operating is about $140,000,000.00. The town budget is at about $70,000,000.00. The prorated part of Essex County for West Orange is about $25,000,000.00 (About $780,000,000.00 for the county in its entirety) Thus local government is about $235,000,000.00 for approximately 45,000 people who live in West Orange. That is more or less $5,220.00 per every man, woman, and child in town in local government. This also would be about $15,000.00 in local government per household in West Orange. This is above state and national averages for the cost of local government. It is more government than we need and more then we can afford. It run contrary to the goal of our New Jersey state motto: Liberty and Prosperity. With deference to the Mayor & Municipal Council, The School Board, and County Freeholders & The County Executive: All of you need to go back to the prevail drawing board, sharpen your pencil and radically shrink our government.
Cynthia Cumming March 22, 2012 at 02:20 AM
One would think that those opposed to living in Essex County with its high taxes would live elsewhere.
J March 22, 2012 at 10:22 AM
Too bad you can't sell your house here since the taxes are astronomical and the price of your home isn't worth beans. Move if we'd could. Sadly, can't afford to take the hit on my house.
Alex Sohn March 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM
There are close to 600 properties for sale in WO. Just name a price, put it on the market, and if it sells you're golden. If it's not on the market, you'll never sell it. Most of my neighbors are DINKs (no kids), a lot are looking to get out. If they manage to sell, that will mean an increase in school enrollment. One house sold recently - the new owners have kids. Under these circumstances, we're left with no option - we're putting it on the market before things get even worse.
Adam Kraemer March 22, 2012 at 11:03 AM
@ Cynthia: The population of Essex County is not growing. The census data of the last several decades show that many middle class people have left and much of that is attributed to tax policy. So many people do make economic choices as you indicated. I choose to stay because I like it here and work with in the democratic process to make our government a reasonable size. So I ask you and other who ask that type of question: Why can't we make Essex County affordable so people can stay?
steve@murraystreet.com March 22, 2012 at 03:45 PM
NJ Elected a governor who was committed to cutting state expenses by reducing aid to localities. The West Orange Township budget (following 48 layoffs which I'd guess might be 10% of township employees) is 2 million dollars LESS than last year - close to 3% reduction. So even a 1.5 percent tax increase is just shouldering about 1/3 of the burden. If we don't invest in education we risk the future of our state and our children to innovate and compete in the global economy. Yes we all must live a little less well now - so that our children - and their children will enjoy the rich natural beauty, the active healthy community that we so cherish about West Orange.
wohopeful March 22, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Perhaps now is not the time to consider burdening the taxpayers with 6.3 million dollars in general obligation bonds on top of the 100 million in debt the town already has. But then making fiscally responsible decisions does not appear to be Mayor Parisi's strong point.
leslie March 22, 2012 at 08:18 PM
We can barely make ends meet now and even though it is not that big of an increase, this will be the beginning of more each year. Just wait and see. We also can't afford to sell our house. Needs work and we can't afford to fix it and when we do what could we get for it if we do manage to sell it. So thanks for your suggestion Cynthia.
Carol March 22, 2012 at 11:15 PM
I pay 25,000 in taxes, on a condo. The rate has gone ou 10,000, yes 10,000 in 3 years!!! So much for the revaluation and the township holding down costs Essex county has so much to offer in addition to many convinces. I don't understand how other essex towns manage to keep their taxes significantly lower. NO ONE will buy my pretty. The value went down, the taxes went up. The "town" was supposed to review the situation but...... Some how that didn't happen. Yeah, GO WEST ORANGE!!!!! How about some ratables rather then huge houses of worship
Cynthia Cumming March 23, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Cynthia pays taxes too and spouse and I work five jobs between us. We struggle as much as everyone else. But the tax structure needs to be changed at the state and federal level first.
Adam Kraemer March 23, 2012 at 02:05 AM
@ Steve Murray:With deferenc to your posting: Gross spending on schools has very little to do with a qality education. Targetting public money to certain instructional programs that work does make a differnce. Spending per student in the West Orange is about $20,000 a stduent. We can do a good job for our kids at a lower price. Just throwing fund at the public shools will not get you what you want but it will make us less prosperous.
Adam Kraemer March 23, 2012 at 02:10 AM
@ Cynthia I have a lot of respect for you and your posts: However, I disagree with what you say for this reason. If we up state and federal taxes to solve local issues we are still in same placet. If my property taxes go down and my sale and income taxes go up I still am left with the same small pot of funds to spend on my family. After all we in West Orange are subjec to taxes from the United States and the state of New Jersery too. So the answer is to figure out how to make goverment smaller at all levels so the people keep what they make and provide for themselves. Then maybee you can have fewer jobs and more time to enjoy family and such.
Cynthia Cumming March 23, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Adam, you are not getting what I'm saying. The federal and state government determined how we pay our local taxes, basically 70% for public education and 30% for township costs. Until the formula changes we are subject to cost of living increases for township and schools as much as we are for utilities, food, credit cards, state, and federal taxes.
Adam Kraemer March 23, 2012 at 10:50 AM
The schools can do good things for our children at less the $20,000 per student. We don't need to spend $70,000,000.00 to run the municipality it can be done at less cost. The county we don't even need at all its functions can go to the state, the municiaplities, and non-goverment entities. The federal govement is massive debt, the state is in debt also. So shifting cost from one goverment entity to an other does little or nothing. The answer in my view is less government and lower cost government at all levels.
Ryan March 23, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Adam. I don't think CC's advocating "shifting costs" as you keep saying -- I think (if I'm reading her right) she's advocating fewer mandates from on high which prevent local authorities from trimming costs in many areas even if they wanted to.
MP March 23, 2012 at 03:19 PM
The mayor needs to trim down the govt and cut excessive salaries and benefits to municiapl workers to reduce our taxes. It is getting impossible to sell a house here. The houses in Livingston and Millburn sells fast. They are going to run WO into ground.Soon it will become Orange and then East Orange. This place is beautiful and convenient but being ruined by incompetent politicians and unions. Once you drive away high income earners, there will be nothing to salvage here. Once suggestion is to eliminate tax breaks for the so-called non-profit organizations that operate here. They all pay themselves high salaries but don't pay property taxes. Some people are also claiming their houses as houses of worship. sad, sad, sad.
cb March 23, 2012 at 06:21 PM
What I don't understand is why this article is not also addressing the tax rate increase that was voted on by our council on March 20. It is to go into effect in July, due to the town losing tax revenues because of all the appeals. This rate increase is in addition to the Budget increase of 1.5%. Between Board of Ed (at least 2%) Municipal budget increase(1.5%) and tax rate increase, we all may be looking at a 4-6% increase in our taxes.
john anthony prignano March 23, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Many years ago , I had a conversation with a then School Board member . She was telling me about all the mandates the schools have to pay for . So I asked " Does the State mandate longevity pay ? Does the State mandate 9 salary steps ? Does the State mandate the Rolls Royce health plan you give the teachers ? Does the State mandate the salaries you pay the Administrators? ? How about scheduled early dismissals? How about a daily prep period? Her answer was " No" . I said " You spend that money because YOU WANT TO" And at the time I spoke to that Board Member, the State gave School Boards the power to IMPOSE a "last best offer " contract on the Teacher's Union . Since she had failed with the mandate ploy, this Board Member switched gears and said that behind closed doors , the Union threatens job actions and reprisals and strikes . In other words , Board members are being coerced , that's why the teacher's contract is so generous .I told her to wear a wire or go to the Prosecutor's office I then got a glimpse into The New Order . I said "You're not even trying to control spending " She said "Yes we are . Last year we privatized the cafeteria service " !! Why pay 6 dollars an hour when you can pay 5 ? And why pay a teacher with a bachelors degree $100 an hour when you can pay them $150? Many many millions of dollars being spent on mandates , and many many millions of dollars being spent on meeting the most important mandate : Give your friends money !
Ryan March 23, 2012 at 09:36 PM
+1 to the "huge houses of worship" comment.
Ryan March 23, 2012 at 09:44 PM
"This rate increase is in addition to the Budget increase of 1.5%." I'm pretty sure this is confused. The rate increase is 1.5% (proposed; not finalized) but the budget is DOWN, not up. In short, the town is spending less but taxing residents at a higher rate because of a revenue shortfall. (It's not clear to me what the reasons for the shortfall are but the appeals you mention may be one.) Also, what's your source on the BOE budget going up "at least 2%"? More than 2% triggers a referendum under the new state law, so it seems very unlikely they'd propose that.

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