Town Council passes 2018 DWOA budget

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council unanimously passed the Downtown West Orange Alliance’s budget at its Jan. 9 meeting, approving $207,000 for the 2018 calendar year. The DWOA budget has stayed largely the same over the years although there were some minor changes in specific categories of the budget and new additions to the organization’s website and event-planning divisions.

The $207,000 is broken down into six different categories. The largest portion of the budget is the $98,000 designated for property assessment, while $40,809 will come from township contributions. There is $32,665.17 left from the 2017 budget to be used in 2018, in addition to the $14,500 in planned income from this year’s Mayor’s 5K run. In fundraising income, the DWOA has budgeted for $20,925.82. There will be an additional $100 in interest income.

One of the new additions to the DWOA in 2018 is Member 365, an online platform that will allow business owners and residents access to the DWOA website in a new way; this will cost $149 per month. Business owners will be able to log into the site and update their hours and sale specials on their own rather than going through DWOA staff, and they will be able to interact with other business owners.

“It will allow us to have real time changes when business owners decide they want to go on vacation or have summer or holiday hours,” DWOA Executive Director Megan Brill said at the meeting. “They can immediately log into Member 365 and make any changes they want to our website.”

The platform will also allow residents to sort through businesses, thanks to an updated organization system. With this new system barber shops and mechanics, for example, will be easier to distinguish from one another. The site will also provide advice about where to find parking in the downtown area.

“There’s always that debate that we don’t have enough parking downtown and that might be true in some areas,” Brill said. “But we definitely don’t have a great way of telling people about the parking lots that we do have.”

The other new DWOA budget item is the retainer of Allen Consulting, the firm that will handle the marketing and promotion for five events throughout the year, two of which are new. Sponsorship and vendor fees from Restaurant Week in March, the West Orange Street Fair in June and the December Holiday Open House will go to Allen Consulting, as well as the same fees from the inaugural talent concert in July and Harvest Festival in October. The firm will be paid $2,000 a month in addition to 10 percent of any funds raised in excess of $24,000. All remaining money will to go the DWOA.

According to Brill, outsourcing the marketing and promotion of events will allow the DWOA to focus on economic development and visual improvements in the downtown corridor area.

As part of the budget presentation, Brill highlighted the local businesses that won Best of Essex Awards in 2017.

“West Orange had 30 gold, bronze and silver awards, which I think is astonishing and I think is probably the most that we’ve ever had,” she said, citing City Workshop Men’s Supply Co.’s two awards for Best Specialty Store and Best Storefront Display. “So we’re doing a lot of things right. Folks are recognizing the good stuff that we’re doing.”

Council President Susan McCartney applauded the budget and the work the DWOA does in town.

“You always say how everything you do has to promote and highlight the businesses in your corridor, and this narrative is doing exactly that,” she said at the meeting.

Councilman Jerry Guarino, the council liaison to the DWOA, also praised the organization’s work, saying at the meeting, “I’m proud of the Downtown Alliance. The money has been well spent, the results are fantastic, and I can’t wait to see how this year does for us. I see great potential, so thank you.”