Orange budget proposal introduced at special meeting

ORANGE, NJ — At a special meeting of the Orange City Council on Thursday, May 24, business administrator Chris Hartwyck introduced Mayor Dwayne Warren’s Calendar Year 2018 budget proposal, which council accepted. The proposal not include specific numbers, tax increases or tax decreases.

The council approved the resolution introducing and approving the budget by a margin of 6-0. At large Councilman Chris Jackson was absent for the vote.

Also introduced at the meeting was a resolution ratifying a labor memorandum of agreement of negotiations between Orange Township and the Office of the Professional Employees International Union Local 32 regarding salary adjustments. OPEIU Local 32 represents the city’s non-uniform employees who are members of the Orange Municipal Employees Benefits Association union.

Jackson arrived at the meeting after the votes to approve the budget and the ratification of the deal between the Warren administration and the union. According to the terms and conditions of successor contract, the Warren administration agreed to increase the OMEBA members’ salaries by 3 percent, “for the time period from Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2017,” and by 1.75 percent “for the period from Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018.” It also provides for some retroactive pay.

“I don’t want get into all of the numbers, but it’s up on the website, along with the master workbook and all of the salary schedules for all unions and employees,” said Hartwyck on Thursday, May 24. Once you introduce the budget, then it becomes the council’s budget and they can massage it in a number of ways. They have 45 days to do that.”

The council also approved a series of budget hearings beginning Friday, June 8, with the police department, municipal court and law department; Saturday, June 16, with the fire department, department of finance, council and city clerk; Thursday, June 21, with the departments of planning and development, community services and public works; and Monday, June 25, with the department of administration, water operating and the Orange Public Library.

North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason urged her fellow council members to adhere to the hearing schedule, especially the varying start times.

“We don’t want to be there all night,” said Eason on Monday, May 28, at the city’s Memorial Day observance at the Orange Elks Lodge. “So if everybody gets there on time, we can all get out at a decent hour and we can all work together.”

“We did a clear, responsible budget we think is certainly responsible to the taxpayers,” said Warren on Monday, May 28. “It cuts no services, it keeps things in place for us. It’s no burden on us and the council has it and we’re hoping for their input in the budget process and then to adopt it and move our city forward.”

Warren said he is looking forward to “responsible responses to the budget,” now that it is in the hands of the council. Eason said the governing body will do its best to review the budget and revise it, as necessary, in the best interests of everyone.

“We’re going to do our due diligence, but we’re not interested, especially, in cutting our police and fire, so we’re going to weather things, to make sure there’s no layoffs,” said Eason on Monday, May 28. “We’re not there to really cut; we’re there to do what is feasibly possible and fiscally responsible for the residents of Orange and to keep everything intact.”

Hartwyck said he is relieved the 2018 budget has finally been introduced, so the budget process can proceed accordingly.

“It’s been a very difficult budget,” said Hartwyck. “But I think that we’ve worked our way through to the point where we feel confident that we can get this done.”

City Council President Kerry Coley agreed with Hartwyck and Eason.

“We introduced our 2018 budget and we passed a resolution to pay the union some 2017 back money,” said Coley on Thursday, May 24. “We just introduced it and we’re going to start going through it next week. We’re not on time with the budget process, but I hope the remainder of the process goes as smooth as this night went and I’m just hoping that no city services will be affected by this budget and things that are happening in this city.”

Coley said Orange residents who would like a copy of the new budget proposal can contact the City Clerk’s Office.