Council prepares to adopt Calendar Year 2018 budget

David Lyons

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Municipal Council will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 11, to vote on the $109,637,331.30 Calendar Year 2018 municipal budget.

“The next council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11,” said municipal clerk Harold Wiener on Tuesday, Aug. 21. “As soon as Trenton says it’s OK, they’ll send it back to us. Then the council will probably have to amend it some more and then they’ll vote on whether to approve it or not. The state will let us know. Hopefully, by the next meeting, we’ll know a little more.”

Municipal Council President and North Ward Councilman David Lyons agreed with Wiener.

“The budget has to be approved by the state before we can adopt,” confirmed Lyons on Monday, Aug. 20. “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 at the regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 14, to keep the municipal government open and running until the state finishes reviewing the budget and sends it back to Irvington for final approval and adoption.

According to the Clerk’s Office, the vote to approve the Emergency Temporary Appropriation was 5-1, with East Ward Councilman Paul Inman voting against the measure and West Ward Councilman Vern Cox absent from the proceedings.

“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 that it would be impossible to do anything about any likely tax increases or budget deficits in the budget until after the state completes its review and sends the final version to the council for a vote to adopt it on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

“Therefore, I don’t know the final figures,” said Lyons. “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.”

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.

However, according to Lyons, 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. On May 1, 2017, the Vauss administration began its program of salary deferments, givebacks, layoffs and furloughs that the mayor 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 million 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.”

But, in his first public statement in three years, former Mayor Wayne Smith disputed Lyons’ statement about taxes being the lowest since 2014.

“I have not engaged local Irvington local government since I left office June 30, 2014,” said Smith in the undated statement he confirmed he posted on social media. “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. The Municipal Council sets the tax rate and authorizes the budget and not the mayor.”