ORANGE, NJ — The Orange City Council is scheduled to host its first hearing to review Mayor Dwayne Warren’s Calendar Year 2018 Budget proposal on Friday, June 8, at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers.
The council is supposed to start with the Orange Police Department, Orange Municipal Court and Law Department, then proceed to the Fire Department, Department of Finance and the Municipal Council and city Clerk’s Office on Saturday, June 16; the Department of Planning and Development, Department of Community Services and Department of Public Works on Thursday, June 21; and the Department of Administration, Water Operating, and the Orange Public Library on Monday, June 25. The hearings are scheduled to begin at either 6, 7 or 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on the weekend.
“We don’t want to be there all night,” said North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason on Monday, May 28. “So if everybody gets there on time, we can all get out at a decent hour and we can all work together.”
Orange Business Administrator Chris Hartwyck introduced the budget proposal to the council at a special meeting on Thursday, May 24; the council voted to accept it, although it did not give an exact budget number or list any tax increases or tax decreases. Hartwyck said the budget proposal can be viewed on the city’s website at www.ci.orange.nj.us.
“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. 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,” said Hartwyck on Thursday, May 24.
He added that he is relieved the budget is in the council’s hands, so the 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.”
According to a memorandum dated Thursday, May 31, from Hartwyk to Orange Fire Department Director Kenneth Douglas and Deputy Chief Spearman, and provided to the Record-Transcript by Hartwyk on Tuesday, June 5, no overtime would be authorized for the Fire Department unless necessary to ensure public safety. The same is true for the Patrol Division, Hartwyk said in the memo. Finally, the memo says all requests for vacation would have to be reviewed to ensure, if granted, they would not require overtime or cause scheduling conflicts.
The mayor described the budget proposal as “a clear, responsible budget we think is certainly responsible to the taxpayers.”
“It cuts no services, it keeps things in place for us,” said Warren on Monday, May 28. “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 looks forward to “responsible responses to the budget,” now that council has it. And Eason said she and her council colleagues would “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. “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.”
After winning re-election to a second consecutive term in office on Tuesday, May 8, West Ward Councilman Harold Johnson and East Ward Councilman and council President Kerry Coley vowed the 2018 budget would be their first and top priority.
But after seeing the memorandum, Johnson said it looks as if the council has its work cut out for it, when it comes to reviewing Warren’s budget proposal and possibly finding ways to trim, cut or otherwise change it.
“Seeing this for the first time,” said Johnson on Monday, June 4, when he received a copy of the OFD memorandum released on Saturday, June 2. “We haven’t had the Fire Department budget hearings yet. My guess, this may be an effect of budget decisions. Stand by.”
On Tuesday, June 5, Johnson added, “Looks like the mayor and his brother have a major problem on their hands.”
Coley, a retired Orange police officer, could not be reached for comment by press time this week.