"This is probably the healthiest budget we've ever introduced," said Mayor Albio Sires at the meeting. "There are no gimmicks."
The budget is up only $139,000 from last year's spending plan. According to 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, an average of .8 percent a year.
The town expects to collect $18.48 million in taxes this year, which is the same amount as was collected last year. The town's overall tax rate is $44.39 per $1,000 in property owned, of which $20.59 goes toward the municipal tax rate. Thus, the owner of a $200,000 house will pay $8,878 this year. This tax rate is among the highest in the state, and has been for many years.
The budget includes $8.8 million in state aid and a total of $85,000 in UEZ funds, largely from sales tax collected.
The plan will be up for a public hearing and final vote at a meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 20.
Sires and Turner said they had worked hard to stabilize the budget. After inheriting a $9 million deficit when he took office in 1995, Sires had to chip away at the deficit without asking for more taxes.
"This has been the longest time period that the budget has been stable since I lived here," said Sires who has been a resident in West New York for the last 38 years.
Two main factors in decreasing this deficit were the development on the waterfront and the regionalization of the town's fire department last year, Turner said. The waterfront development has brought in millions of dollars of in-lieu-of-tax money for the last three years, and the regionalization saved money.
However, until these two factors played a role, the town relied on one-time revenues, like the sale of land and the closing of certain facilities, to supply income that allowed taxes to remain the same.
Turner, who now sits on a committee that is helping neighboring Union City stabilize its spending because of the failed one-shot revenues in that city's budget last year, said that he is a strong believer in one-shot revenue deals. "I don't think [one-time revenues] are a bad thing," said Turner. "They are only bad if they are done incorrectly." Sires added, "We used the one-shot revenues to carry us to this point when we wouldn't need them anymore." This year, the town reached the point where they didn't need any one-shot revenues to stabilize their budget.
"What I am most proud of in this budget is that after six years, there are no one-shot revenues," Sires said. "It is a solid budget."
Another reason that the town was able to eliminate one-shot revenues and maintain its tax rate was the 97 percent collection rate of taxes this year, drastically increased from the 79 percent collection rate in 1995. This year's collection included $5 million in taxes collected from the property on the waterfront.
"The collection rate has been increasing every year since I took office," said Sires.
While most of the town's budget remains the same as last year, there are a few minor changes. Probably the largest increase in spending will go to the West New York Public Library. The town budgeted $75,000 more for the library this year than last year.
"This increase is because the mayor is making an effort to revitalize the library," said Turner.
"We are trying to make the library the focal point of the town again," added Sires.
The budget also included an average of a three percent salary increase to all city employees and a substantial increase in employee fringe benefits for hospitalization.
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.
The budget has $8.2 million earmarked for police salaries and wages, some of which comes from grants. The town will pay $5.5 million toward the regionalized fire department.