As state reviews budget, council has public hearing on it

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Municipal Council held a public hearing for the Calendar Year 2018 municipal budget at its last regular meeting of the summer on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

The new budget comes in at $109,637,331.30. According to Council President and North Ward Councilman David Lyons, it was introduced at the regular meeting on Tuesday, June 26. He said once the council amended it and sent it to Trenton for review. After the budget is approved by the state, a final vote will take place to adopt it.

“Yes, we had a budget hearing,” said Lyons on Monday, Aug. 20. “However, the hearing was more for state time considerations, because the budget has to be approved by the state before we can adopt. I expect there will be changes in our budget, prior to state approval.”

Lyons said the council majority voted to approve a $7,484,639.82 emergency temporary appropriation to keep the municipal government open and running until the state finishes reviewing the budget. According to the Municipal Clerk’s Office, the emergency temporary appropriation was approved on Tuesday, Aug. 14, by a vote of 5-1, with West Ward Councilman Vern Cox absent from the proceedings.

East Ward Councilman Paul Inman was the sole naysayer for the appropriation.

“There will be a tax increase in this budget, but the state didn’t approve the budget,” said Inman on Monday, Aug. 20. “The numbers continue to change. I can’t answer any questions about budget deficits until the budget is final.”

Lyons said Inman was right to refrain from commenting about any tax increases or budget deficits in the 2018 budget until the state completes its review.

“We, as well as the administration, are always looking for ways to avoid deficits. We hope to be able to adopt a budget as soon as possible, so that we can prepare for the coming year,” Lyons said.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Last year, Lyons was the first local elected official to admit the $109,930,685.08 Calendar Year 2017 municipal budget contained a $2.4 million deficit for 2016 and a 1.5-percent tax increase. In 2016, Vauss revealed that a routine audit of the township’s financial records had uncovered a $3.25 million deficit in 2015 and $2.4 million deficits in the 2016 and 2017 budgets.

Lyons said the 1.5-percent tax increase in the Calendar Year 2017 budget was not due to the $2.4 million deficit, on top of the existing $3.25 million deficit, however. On May 1, 2017, the Vauss administration began its program of salary deferments, givebacks, layoffs and furloughs that he said were necessary to close the 2015 deficit.

“Even if we didn’t have the deficit, we were going to raise taxes. Nobody likes to see deficits. It was $3.8 in 2015. We got that down to about $3.25 million,” said Lyons on Monday, July 10, 2017. “In 2016, taxes actually went down. With the 1.5-percent tax increase that we’re having now in 2015, that would have been more. Your taxes are still lower than they were in 2016 and they’re definitely lower than they were in 2014.”

Former Mayor Wayne Smith disputed this assertion in his first public statement in three years in a social media posting, which opens with an appeal to all Irvington residents.

“I have not engaged local Irvington local government since I left office June 30, 2014,” said Smith in a statement he confirmed he had posted. “Recently, you received a mailer regarding taxes during two years that I served as mayor. If the numbers are correct, it reflects taxes after the state-mandated revaluation. Municipal Council sets the tax rate and authorizes the budget, not the mayor.”