The 2014 Secaucus municipal budget was adopted at the April 22 meeting of the Town Council. The approved budget amount for the year is $49.6 million.
Councilman Robert Costantino provided a detailed report to the public, explaining that “for the third year in a row, there is no increase to the municipal tax rate.”
“Some of the major increases in expenses the administration faced in the 2014 budget over the 2013 budget include the increase in expenses relating to winter storms ($225,000) and the hiring of four new police officers ($120,000),” he said.
Noting that the economic climate in 2013 continued to be challenging, Costantino said the city has actually gotten increased revenue from certain avenues.
“We have been fortunate that the revenue we collect in the hotel tax has begun to stabilize after the recession and has again been budgeted at $2 million,” he said. “We also anticipate an increase in the parking tax of about $50,000 over last year… In addition, the revenues brought in by our construction fees increased by 51 percent.”
“We anticipate the finalizing of tax sharing once and for all, hopefully by June of this year.” –Michael Gonnelli.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli agreed. “We anticipate the finalizing of tax sharing once and for all, hopefully by June of this year,” he said.
Altogether, the town is fully funding $1.2 million worth of improvement projects including Senior Center improvements and a new senior bus ($125,000), pedestrian safety upgrades ($45,000), new turf for the Little League/softball fields ($650,000), two new playgrounds at Huber and Clarendon Elementary Schools ($180,000), paving upgrades ($100,000) and flood mitigation ($100,000).
Mayor Gonnelli also noted that on May 22 the Hudson County freeholders will vote on this year’s Open Space Trust Fund allocations. Secaucus is up for a $200,000 grant to install a gazebo-like structure with benches at Mill Creek, by the river.
“Even though [municipal taxes are] flat and our spending is pretty much level, we’ve done a lot of improvements. I think you’ve seen more improvements in the last four years than you’ve seen over the last decade,” said Gonnelli. “We have a record number of police officers on the force now with five more soon to be hired.”
Councilman Gary Jeffas reported that the police officers hired last year had completed their 22 weeks of training and three month probationary work with fellow officers. As of April they were out on the street and assigned to tours.
“As the mayor indicated,” he said, “we’re budgeting for a few more officers this year in our continuing effort… to make sure that the town not only looks good but is as safe as we can make it.”
Also at the meeting, several members of the Indian Caucus of Secaucus presented a check to the firefighters of Secaucus. “We give them a check every year because they are volunteers and we love to support those who work within our community,” said Rajesh Nagpal of the Indian Caucus.
Councilman Costantino praised Stephen Badalamenti, the recycling coordinator for the town. Badalamenti is in charge of maximizing the amount of refuse sent for recycling.
“Before him in 2010 we collected 31,000 tons or so,” said Costantino. “And 2011 when we brought him on it went up to about 53,000 tons.” That number has continued to increase each year. “In 2013 we’re up to like 152,000 tons. So he’s doing an incredible job of gathering, collecting, going to other organizations, making sure that we get credit for all that we’re supposed to be getting credit for.”
The amount of recycled material directly translates into how much the town receives in certain grants.
“I think the first year Steve started we received $46,000 in recycling tonnage grants,” said Mayor Gonnelli. “Last year we received $108,000. So the higher the number goes, obviously the more money we get back in our grant.”
In addition, he said, “Every ton that’s saved in the waste stream is a ton that we’re not paying for, at $68 or $72 a ton.”
100-year-old ex-mayor attends council meeting
As a very special ceremony at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, the council honored two former town officials in Secaucus.
“Former Mayor [Paul] Amico and former Deputy Mayor [John] Bueckner were both sworn in as League of Municipality honorees,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli, “and we wanted to do something a little special. We have a plaque that’s going to hang in these council chambers.”
The New Jersey League of Municipalities is a voluntary association based in Trenton dedicated to assisting local government throughout the state.
The plaque reads: “The mayor and the Town Council proudly salute the members of the Secaucus government who have been inducted into the New Jersey League of Municipalities elected officials Hall of Fame… This award shines a light on these pillars of our community and holds them up as an example of civic pride for all citizens to emulate.”
Councilman emeritus John Buecker served from 1994 to 2008, acting as deputy mayor from 2009 to 2013. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Mayor Paul Amico served as councilman from 1957 to 1958 and mayor from 1964 to 1991. He was inducted in 2001.
Amico, who attended the council meeting to receive his honor on April 22, was one day shy of celebrating his birthday. The following day he was 101 years old.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.