EO Council passes revised CY 2016 budget

EAST ORANGE, NJ — The East Orange City Council approved the revised $138,194,520 Calendar Year 2016 city budget with a 1.46-percent tax increase at its regular meeting Monday, June 6.

According to city officials, the increase is a reduction from the 1.9-percent increase Mayor Lester Taylor introduced at the council’s March 28 meeting, and is well within the state’s 2-percent cap on tax increases.

Officials said it is the lowest increase since Taylor took office in 2014 and, for the first time in recent history, the East Orange Water Commission will not be financially supported by the city’s budget.

Taylor said that means East Orange is saving $1 million, further stabilizing the city’s fiscal footing.

“Without a doubt, this 2016 budget demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that our government continues to work as effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Taylor on Friday, June 10. “Over the past two years, we have worked hard to balance our budget with reduced spending and increased investment in our community. I want to thank the members of the East Orange City Council for their due diligence in representing the best interests of our residents. I am proud that we were able to work together to adopt a budget within a timeframe that allows us to make a seamless transition from one budget cycle to another.”

City Council Chairman and 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green said working with the Taylor administration to craft the Calendar Year 2016 budget was a labor of love. He agreed that this year’s budget brings the city one step closer to achieving its long-range fiscal goals.

“In order for our city to move forward, the city council and mayor must work together to achieve positive results,” said Green on Friday, June 10. “Our council is committed to fulfilling the administration’s vision that East Orange set the standard for urban excellence and become a destination city.”

Green’s 3rd Ward council partner and City Council Finance Committee Chairwoman Quilla Talmadge said Green and Taylor were right. Once again, she said one of the main reasons she ran for re-election was her desire to stay on the council, so she could help the mayor realize his vision of urban excellence and his dream to transform East Orange into a destination city.

And Talmadge said that all starts with the annual city budget process.

“I think it was a great budget,” said Talmadge on Tuesday, June 14. “It’s one of the lowest we’ve had since this administration has been in office. When they gave us the budget, it was pretty good. I’m really pleased with it and it’s the best we could do, because there are no more cuts that we make to it.”

Talmadge said the best thing about the budget is that fact that “It’s not going to be much of an impact on our taxpayers.” She also agreed with Taylor’s statement that “seamless transitions from one budget cycle to another” are good.

“We’re ready to start on the next one,” she said.

According to Taylor, having a productive working relationship with the City Council is important for the ongoing economic revitalization of East Orange. He said right now the city is on a trajectory to rebuild its tax base through a number of redevelopment projects.

“By aggressively addressing the issues of our water commission, we are now able to move forward on stalled development projects, which will help increase the share of property taxes paid by businesses and commercial properties,” said Taylor. “In one year’s time, we’ve doubled private capital investment to over $250 million in upcoming projects that represent the construction of commercial and residential properties in every ward of the city. We’ve invested in our own assets, like the East Orange Golf Course and the East Orange Water Commission, ensuring that those valuable resources are making money instead of losing it.”

A copy of the budget can be viewed at the city’s website, www.eastorange-nj.gov. This is Taylor’s third city budget since he was sworn into office Jan. 1, 2014.

Taylor’s first city budget in Calendar Year 2014 produced a one-time 4.25-percent tax increase that the council eventually reduced to 3 percent. His second budget in Calendar Year 2015 contained a 3.5-percent tax rate increase for the average household assessed at $175,000.

And at the start of the 2016 budget process, Taylor’s third budget contained a 1.9-percent tax increase when it was first introduced in late March. Since then, the governing body managed to find ways to reduce that increase to 1.46 percent.

Taylor said gradually reducing taxes during a three-year period was part of his master plan to get the city’s fiscal house in order.

“After two years of developing and implementing creative and innovative solutions to address years of fiscal mismanagement, there is no doubt that we are getting closer to our end goal: The stabilization of taxes that the residents of East Orange deserve,” Taylor said Monday, March 28. “The proposed budget that I am introducing tonight brings us one step further to a strong fiscal footing. In order to continue our progress, we ask for the cooperation and continued support from the members of City Council, all of our hardworking employees and all of the residents and stakeholders of our great city.”