I write this letter with a heavy heart concerning your property tax bill. As a hands on Mayor, working on the municipal budget has been one of my toughest tasks. As with your household costs, the city is experiencing drastic increases in fuel, electricity and other outside costs that the Commissioners and I have very little, if any, control over. What is most frustrating is that we have taken all of the appropriate steps to improve our fiscal situation. Since taking office, we have instituted a hiring freeze, have not replaced dozens of employees who retired/resigned, and have not given salary increases to the Directors or unclassified employees in five years. By not replacing or hiring employees, the city not only saves on salaries but also on health benefit and pension costs. The Commissioners and I have also set the example by not using city issued cell phones, cars, beepers or city gas.
I am a firm believer that you are owed a precise explanation of the issues we face. These are some of the major increases and decreases in certain areas this past year alone!
One Year Increase: $1,363,000.00, North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue; $1,200,000.00, Contractual Salary Increases (police/municipal employees); $1,044,000.00, Employee Health Insurance; $650,000.00, Workman’s Compensation; $369,000.00, Police Pensions; $230,000.00, Public Employees Pension; $573,000.00, Solid Waste Disposal.
One Year Decrease: -$1,156,000.00, State Aid; -$569,000.00, R.E.A.P. Benefits.
Total increase in cost to the city as a result of these changes: $7,154,000.00.
The above figures do not include increases for gasoline, electricity, water, sewerage and supplies.
One of the largest issues we are facing is the decision the prior administration made to regionalize the fire department. When the fire department was run by Union City nine years ago, the city was paying $5.7 million for fire safety. Today, after the prior administration decided to merge our fire department with four other towns in our area, Union City pays over $15 million for fire protection. At the time, the city was given property tax relief for properties that were owner occupied. That relief has been drastically reduced over the past nine years.
As you read this letter, the Commissioners and I are working on a plan to make additional cuts to our budget and will be announcing those cuts in the near future. These cuts will touch all areas of our municipal government, except for police officers. We do not expect interruption of city services as a result of the cuts. Along with these changes, we will fight to bring back more funding from Trenton and are hoping that we will see an increase in funding from the federal level for the State of New Jersey.
Union City is a hard working community that does not enjoy the benefit of a waterfront. Our community is not wealthy and has many challenges. But one thing has always made our city special, the wonderful people that call Union City home. Together, we will get through this economic crisis while we continue to improve as a community.
If you have any questions or comments regarding your tax bill, please contact me directly on my cell phone at 201-376-1942. Feel free to call me at any time, or any day of the week. I look forward to speaking to you.
Brian P. Stack