The spending plan, which covers the period of Jan. 1, 2007 through Dec. 31, is up $1.36 million from last year's budget of $38.7 million.
The new municipal tax rate is $11 per $1,000 of property owned. This is a 54 cent increase from last year's rate. Thus, the owner of a $150,000 house will pay an extra $81 this year to the town.
Property owners will pay separate amounts to the county and schools based on those entities' budgets.
Tuesday's vote was 6-0-1, the only abstention being 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Gonnelli. He abstained due to his commissioner position on the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, and his current litigation with the town.
The budget was originally supposed to be passed two weeks ago at the regularly scheduled Town Council meeting, but due to slight adjustments in spending for certain items, the voting was postponed.
Shinnick phones in
Third Ward Councilman John Shinnick was on vacation at the time of the vote.
He said that he had made the plans very far in advance and that the vacation originally revolved around the original date of the budget vote two weeks ago. Despite being connected to the meeting via telephone, Shinnick's ability to vote on the budget was called into question by 2nd Ward Councilman John Bueckner.
Bueckner stated that he held nothing against Shinnick voting, but wanted to ensure that the vote was legitimate and couldn't be called into question later.
"Of course I want to participate, because I take the budget seriously," said Shinnick through the phone. He also stated that if his voting would jeopardize the budget, he would willingly abstain.
Since all of the council had agreed that they were in favor of the budget, Mayor Dennis Elwell allowed Shinnick to cast his ballot.
"I think he has a right to vote," said Elwell. "I don't know how that affects [the budget] if there are five votes here."
After the budget was passed, council agreed to talk to the town attorney, Frank Leanza, about whether or not the phoned in ballot was legal.
Later, Elwell stated that Leanza had said that the vote was admissible and that he had checked the Rules with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
Elwell also noted that phoned-in votes had been used in Secaucus before, as when former Councilman Robert Campanella had suffered from a stroke and was unable to physically attend several meetings.
Public hearing Before the final vote, members of the public were allowed to comment or give suggestions on the budget. Only one person spoke, asking how much money the town pool earned in fees last summer. Officials said the pool took in $183,000 in fees.
The 2007 budget At each meeting regarding the budget, it was stressed that the bulk of the increase is due to unavoidable pension increases for town workers as mandated by the state of New Jersey.
The mayor and council have stressed that only approximately 2 percent of the tax increase is due to controllable spending by the town.
This year's tax levy, or the amount of the budget to be paid for by property taxes, is a projected $27 million. The tax increase was the first one in town in eight years.