As we enter the New Year, 2011 it may be worthwhile to look back at the previous year to review the financial status of the community. This will provide some insight into 2011. In spite of the difficult financial condition faced by our community and nation we maintained borough services with only a minor change in refuse disposal while making some improvements in borough equipment and road repair. This was done with only a 2.3% increase in taxes from the previous year due chiefly to labor cost increases from previous contracts. This 2.3% increase included the exceptions permitted under the 2% cap mandated by the State for 2011.
Messages from the Mayor of Bergenfield
Within the next few weeks the Borough of Bergenfield will adopt a six month budget to carry us through December 31, 2010. This Transitional Year Budget will allow us to return to a calendar year budget beginning on January 1st. Calendar year budgets are normal for most communities in the state as it was in Bergenfield for many years. Once adopted the calendar year budget will have no effect on the taxpayers except to make it more convenient to determine taxes for the entire calendar year.
In spite of the present recession the community remains fiscally strong and the present budget does not include an increase in spending in spite of inflationary pressures. We continue to collect the majority of taxes on a timely basis. We have sold some tax liens on delinquent properties where required to maintain our revenue stream. This is not unique to Bergenfield and does not have a serious impact on the borough.
An indication of the borough’s fiscal health was reflected earlier in the year when the borough did not find it necessary to take advantage of a state plan that would have allowed us to pay only 50% of our pension obligations this year. While many communities found it necessary to adopt the plan, we did not believe it was fiscally responsible as it only postponed debt payments to future years.
The recent property tax revaluation reflected in the 3rd quarter 2009 tax bill corrected the gross inequities resulting from the 2004-05 revaluation and will save the 7000 residential property owners approximately $3,000,000 annually. Prior to the revaluation, residential property owners were paying more than their fair share of taxes.
It is no secret that the State of New Jersey is deeply in debt for many reasons including past borrowing practices and the present recession. With the January 2010 change in the state administration we expect to see cuts in state aid to the community as well as to our school system.
While there are few major options available to offset the expect loss of state revenue without reducing services, the borough has taken or will take additional steps in the near future to reduce expenditures. These include the installation of solar panels to generate electricity, improvement in the use of electrical power by changing to more efficient lighting, a change in telephone provider to use VOIP technology, preparing payroll in-house rather than using an outside contractor, a change in garbage disposal methods at our apartment houses and a renegotiated insurance program on our buildings which were over insured.
Regardless of what the future may bring I’m confident that your borough council and the borough staff are capable of resolving them while maintaining the quality of life that we have come to expect in our community.
During my political campaign, many of you asked what we planned to do in order to improve services and the quality of life in Bergenfield. After more than a year as Mayor I will repeat what I said then. There is no magic bullet that will turn Bergenfield into a utopia. There is no single event that will correct what each of us may feel are our most significant problems. Unfortunately, there is no single action we can take that will significantly reduce our taxes; we can only attempt to slow their growth.
Bergenfield provides more services than most of the surrounding communities and no one has suggested that we eliminate any of them. People are generally satisfied with what we presently have. However, costs for all borough operations such as electric power, fuel, insurance, salaries, sewer charges and trash disposal continue to rise. Nothing cost less today than in the past. So essentially, we are left with a very limited number of options which we intend to pursue.
While many of you are dealing with the financial status of our nation and the impact of a recession, those are matters to be resolved by Washington, yet they do have a profound impact on the well being of our community. An individual's loss of a job or an increase in a monthly mortgage due to an interest rate resetting can have a serious impact on the lives of our citizens and make their property tax bill a major burden. A recession could shrink the state economy to the point where state tax collections are reduced leaving less for future state aid to the borough as well as to the school system.
All this may sound like the future is bleak but it's not. It presents us with challenges which we can overcome if we join together and work for the good of our community. I think we will all be surprised at what we can accomplish. I encourage each of you to contact us with your concerns and your suggestions. This is your community and your government. It needs and welcomes your help. I look forward to hearing from you.