"This budget is balanced, it is solid and it requires no tax increase," said West New York Mayor Albio Sires last week. "We have continued the level of services given without additional taxes."
This is the sixth municipal budget that Sires' administration has worked on. The city plans to spend only $139,000 more than last year's budget.
"This is almost a statistically non-existent increase," said West New York Business Administrator Richard Turner. The budget has only gone up a total of 5.6 percent in spending since the Sires administration took over six years ago, which is only an average of .8 percent a year.
Where the town gets its money
The town is expecting to collect $18.92 million from the taxpayers this year, including the school debt tax that the town collects for the Board of Education. The town has kept the same tax rate as last year.
The town's overall tax rate is $44.39 per $1,000 in property, of which $20.59 goes toward the municipal tax rate. Thus, the owner of a $200,000 house will pay $8,878 in overall taxes this year, of which $4,118 will go to the town. (The rest goes to the county and schools.) This tax rate is among the highest in the state, and has been for many years.
However, since Sires has come into office, the municipal tax rate has decreased 22 percent, and the overall tax rate has been reduced about 3.5 percent, not including the REAP tax decrease. The REAP program was a tax credit given to each town for the regionalization of the fire department in North Hudson. The North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue squad includes West New York, Union City, Weehawken, North Bergen and Guttenberg.
"We want to make sure that the REAP benefit carries forward," said Sires. "That is a tax credit that translates into a substantial tax decrease."
The city budget will also be paid for partially with $3.1 million in surplus funds.
"Each year we try to generate the same surplus," said Turner, who showed that last year's budget also generated the same amount in surplus funds. "We have about $2.5 million in surplus now and we expect to generate another $.5 million this year. We have been able to keep the same surplus level each year. That allows us to not raise taxes."
The town will also collect $8.83 million in state aid and $6.9 million in PILOT payments. PILOT payments are Payments in Lieu of Taxes, a set tax rate given to developers to encourage them to develop in the town.
Where your money goes
Turner said that West New York has been able to keep spending stable and to at the same time bring the town's debt down.
The town has allotted $6.59 million this year to pay debt service fees, including the school debt.
"Our debt was up to $8.5 million a year," said Turner. "But we have lowered it dramatically."
Turner said that the debt was restructured several years ago.
"The debt was on an escalating scale," said Turner. "It would have been up to $10 million a year if we didn't restructure it."
The budget does not have any town money allotted to capital improvements, which could increase the town's debt.
"Our goal is to utilize state federal and county funds so that we do not have to increase our debt," said Sires. "And we have been very successful."
The town has appropriated $5.5 million to the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue service.
"That is West New York's contribution to the NHRF&R budget," said Turner. That amount goes to all salaries and services for the town.
However, the largest amount of money in the budget, $8.36 million, is being spent on employee benefits and pension plans for city workers and police officers. The town also has allotted $7.44 million in salaries for city employees and $8.21 million in police officers' salaries. This amount includes a three percent increase for city employees.
However, Sires said that there has not been an increase in the number of city workers since 1995. "The only personnel increase we had was the hiring of more police officers," said Sires, who added that West New York now has a 123-person police force.
There is one line item in the budget that includes no money. It is a line saying "Y2K Readiness." Last year, the town appropriated $100,000 to possibly spend on preparedness for computer glitches related to the year 2000. The town ended up spending $58,461.78 as of the end of the fiscal year. This year, is has appropriated no money.
The Board of Commissioners meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in City Hall on 60th Street. The public may speak out before the final vote on the budget.