Council discusses 2016 budget at special meeting

Photo by Chris Sykes Municipal Council President Charnette Frederic, left, confers with Finance Director Faheem Ra'Oof, center, and council Budget Advisor Cheryl Gibson-Fuller on Monday, Feb. 8, at the special meeting to discuss the Calendar Year 2016 township budget.
Photo by Chris Sykes
Municipal Council President Charnette Frederic, left, confers with Finance Director Faheem Ra’Oof, center, and council Budget Advisor Cheryl Gibson-Fuller on Monday, Feb. 8, at the special meeting to discuss the Calendar Year 2016 township budget.

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Municipal Council’s special meeting inside Council Chambers on Monday, Feb. 8, had been rescheduled three times and wasn’t widely publicized so it was unattended by members of the public. But that didn’t stop Council President Charnette Frederic, Councilwoman at Large Renee Burgess, South Ward Councilwoman Sandy Jones and West Ward Councilman Vern Cox from doing their due diligence regarding the 2016 township budget, and asking questions of participating administration officials and department heads.

Budgets can take much of the year before being approved. According to the township Clerk’s Office, the municipal budget for 2015 was not adopted by council until Tuesday, Sept. 22. That $102 million budget was the first budget approved during the Vauss administration, and contained a 3-cent decrease per $100 dollars in Irvington’s tax rate.

“The rate went up after the revaluation, right before I got into office in 2013, and it was finalized in May 2014, so I still wasn’t in office yet when it took effect,” Mayor Tony Vauss said Tuesday, Sept. 29, shortly after the budget’s approval. “So I started having conversations with the county executive to see if there was any way to relieve the burden on our taxpayers. There are a lot of things that the county has done. All municipalities are struggling with their budgets so we have to find way to do more with less.”

Fast forward to four months later and Frederic and company had several questions Monday, Feb. 8, regarding individual items listed in the Fire Division budget; how the mayor’s new Special Enforcement Response Team was doing; how preparations for the snowstorms that were forecast to hit Irvington and other parts of New Jersey this week have been going; and other queries specific to departments in the township that provide services to residents and taxpayers.

“The only thing budgetwise that we’ll be providing is vehicles,” fire Chief John Tierney answered on Monday, Feb. 8, in response to a question from the council members at the meeting. “As far as the IT program that we want to do, there is a little cost associated with the program to get it up and running — $3,000 to $5,000.”

Burgess asked questions about the Calendar Year 2016 Budget finances that were directly related to the budget presentation Business Administrator Musa Malik and Finance Director Faheem Ra’Oof made at the start of the meeting.

“I just wanted to see the numbers for … the pensions and things,” Burgess said Monday, Feb. 8. “Based on some of the things I saw in the presentation, there are some new things.”

Ra’Oof agreed, saying most of the changes Burgess noted in the Calendar Year 2016 Budget presentation had been made in the last few weeks.

“Overall, what you have is the revenues for 2016,” Ra’Oof said Monday, Feb. 8. “We did build this budget based on the sewer charges. The other area of town support is $825,000 for the sale of the Serviceman’s Club. Then the only change is $609,000. The other is revenues that were redone. Pretty much, that’s where we’re at.”

The council’s budget advisor, Cheryl Gibson-Fuller, also asked about state revenue in the Calendar Year 2016 Budget, specifically, regarding the $471,000 Ra’Oof appeared to have put into an “offsetting category.”

Ra’Oof said he did create an offsetting category.
“The Irvington Neighborhood Improvement Corporation just accepted that,” Ra’Oof said. “We’ve been in this deal since 2015. We had a preliminary closing date. The sewer charge, which was based upon the sewer revenue, and the sale, which was based on the property sale.”

Following this last point of discussion, Frederic closed the budget hearing, adjourning the meeting until the regularly scheduled meeting later that evening.

COMMENTS