The West New York Town Council introduced the 2007 municipal budget at a Sept. 20 meeting, expecting to spend $54.25 million to run the town, a 1.5 percent increase from last year’s budget of $53.5 million.
The budget covers spending from July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007.
The amount to be paid for by taxpayers will tentatively rise from $22.9 million last year to $23.7 million this year. The impact of that increase is offset by a $13 million increase in ratables. Property owners who live in town will have some of their taxes additionally offset by state REAP (Regional Efficiency Aid Progam) money.
The rest of the budget will be paid for by $9.3 million in state aid, as well as money from construction and other fees, and payments in lieu of taxes from developers.
The budget has been undergoing some final technical amendments, and should be ready for final adoption this week.
A special hearing on amendments to the budget was scheduled for Friday, Nov. 3, at City Hall.
The administration boasted that taxes have been kept relatively stable for the past 12 fiscal years.
When Mayor Albio Sires took office in 1995, the previous year’s budget had been $45.5 million.
Thus, spending has only increased 6 percent over the last 12 years. Sires said that in many towns in New Jersey, their budgets increase that much just in one year.
“A 6 percent increase in the last 12 years is unheard of,” said Sires recently. “We are below the rate of inflation.”
Sires said his administration has been able to economize many of the town’s expenses by regionalizing certain services with the surrounding North Hudson municipalities.
“We have exceeded our original goals of controlling taxes and spending,” said Sires.
What you see on your tax bill
The taxes for West New York homeowners are set two ways: the REAP rate and the non-REAP rate.
A REAP Rate is a tax credit given to homeowners who live in town. It is distributed through municipalities that engage in regionalization. West New York, for instance, is one of five local towns served by the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue squad.
On the other hand, non-REAP rate taxpayers are those who own property in West New York, but don’t live in the area.
“So if you own a home and live in West New York, your taxes have gone down 4.5 percent from 1994, which was $45.45 per thousand, to $43.37 per thousand [last year] in 2006,” said Sires. “For the non-REAP rate homeowners it has gone up to $48.26 per thousand, which is a 6 percent increase over the last 12 years, and an 0.5 percent increase from last year.”
He said 6 percent is lower than many municipalities around the state.
“We have saved taxpayers at least $65,600,000 in 12 years,” said Sires. “You won’t find another community, other than those who participate in the REAP program, whose property taxes have either decreased or remained stable.”
How it’s possible
Sires spoke of controlled spending, and of the various county, state, and federal grants he’s helped to secure as an Assemblyman for the entire 33rd District.
He also noted that West New York participated in several types of regionalization.
“North Hudson leads the state in regional services, and it saves a tremendous amount,” said Sires. “We regionalized our health departments through the North Hudson Community Action Corporation’s health services, our sewage authority, our nutrition programs for seniors, and our fire departments.”
The North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue was first established in 1999, and serves the municipalities of West New York, Union City, Weehawken, North Bergen, and Guttenberg.
There has also been a great deal of revenue coming into the municipality.
“We [in West New York] have phenomenal tax stabilization program, and what has also helped has been the incoming waterfront development revenue, which is anticipated to be $9.1 million this year,” said Sires.
Last year the town collected about $7.4 million in development revenue.
As for spending, West New York saw its biggest increases in health benefits, pensions, utilities, and salaries.
“The budget is based on three factors,” Sires said. “The first is the REAP program, second is the revenue from the waterfront, and third is the state funding we get as an Abbott District, which has kept school taxes stable. These three dimensions added together enable us to have stable taxes.”
He added, “Last year we had about $2 million in grants,” said Sires. “You have to bring money, save money where you can, and be as austere as possible, and continue to provide the services that the community needs.”
Up for election
Throughout his administration, Mayor Albio Sires, who is running for a seat in the 13th Congressional District this Tuesday, set out and accomplished his goals, which included lowering taxes and the rejuvenation of West New York.
He said that during his first term in office, he removed 40 unnecessary positions in the city’s employ, and issued several demotions, in order to get the budget under control.
Sires has been credited with reducing the city’s debt by 50 percent. West New York now has a debt of 1.7 percent. The maximum allowed by the state for a municipality, which is based on the value of all properties in the town, is 3.4 percent.
The total tax levy, which encompasses county, school and municipal, was about $45,300,000 in 1994, and had increased only to $45,500,000 in 2006. The county tax rate has also gone up 25 percent from 1994, and an open space tax has also been included.
“We offset these expenses by lowering municipal taxes, and schools remain the same because of Abbot funding,” said Sires. “The goal of the administration is that it was always important to do this, so that people would invest in their homes and fix their properties. I don’t think you will see numbers like this any place.”