The $137.7 million budget and tax resolution were approved by the City Council on Wednesday, March 19. The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, April 9, following the council caucus meeting at 3:30 p.m.
At that hearing, “time and place objections to the budget resolution for the calendar year 2014 budget may be presented by taxpayers or other interested persons,” according to City Clerk Robert Sloan.
Mayor Mark Smith announced that the municipal budget contains no increase in the municipal property tax levy portion.
“My administration has worked hard for more than five years to streamline local government and to get municipal spending under control,” Smith said. “We reduced the number of municipal departments from nine to four. We reduced total municipal debt by over 40 percent, and ended the practice of bonding for current expenditures.”
“Over the past five years we have slowed the growth of municipal spending, and this year we have stabilized the municipal tax levy despite cuts in state aid, increased pension costs, and increased snow [removal] costs during the winter that just ended,” the mayor said.
According to Smith, the city faced challenges in assembling this year’s budget proposal. Among them were state aid to Bayonne declining by $300,000 since last year’s budget and snow-related costs increasing by $890,000, due to the high number of snowfalls this winter.
“The proposed 2014 budget also includes $526,000 for costs for this year’s municipal election, a budgetary item that occurs once every four years,” Smith said. “In spite of these factors, the total amount of proposed taxation for municipal purposes, the library, and school debt combined amounts to about $20,000 less than the figure for last year.”
Council in concert
City Council President Terrence Ruane welcomed the no-tax increase budget.
“The council and I have been working closely with Mayor Smith to eliminate municipal debt and cut spending, " he said. “Our efforts are starting to pay off, and this year’s budget with no tax increase is the result.”
But Smith’s opponents in the May 13 municipal election were critical of the zero-percent tax increase that is being highlighted.
"The promise of a zero percent tax increase is pure fiction and too late to fool the voters,” said Police Capt. James Davis, running against Smith in the mayoral election. “The first and second quarter tax bills are already issued with the tax increase included, and the administration has yet to pay the contractors millions owed for the deplorable snow removal efforts."
The Zanowic for Mayor campaign had a similar response.
"This budget consists of a $4,573,000 increase since last year's budget, meaning the people of Bayonne should have received a tax decrease, not a stabilized rate much like he did in 2008, which turned into a nine percent increase the following year," said Anthony Zanowic of the #Better Bayonne ticket, the other Smith mayoral opponent.
“We will continue to look for ways to make the city of Bayonne even more efficient in the years ahead,” Smith concluded. “We will also move ahead with our pro-development polices, which will add more ratables to our tax base. As new development moves ahead throughout our community, we add tax income from new properties to our revenue stream. New development will ease the tax burden on our current property taxpayers and create jobs and economic growth in the years ahead.”
Copies of the budget are available in the City Clerk’s Office at the municipal building, 630 Ave. C, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.