Parsippany Budget introduced at Council Meeting

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Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Council

PARSIPPANY — At the Parsippany-Troy Hills Council Meeting of Tuesday, June 19, the 2018 Township Budget was introduced with Councilwoman Loretta Gragnani and Councilman Michael dePierro voting against the introduction. The introduced budget shows a 3.5% increase in the municipal tax rate. For an average home valued at $309,000 the increase would be $64.93 per household. Click here to view the proposed user friendly budget.

In reviewing the introduced budget, a few items stick out

  1. Health Benefits: Increased an average of $2,000 per employee, bringing the family plan to $27,296.24 as compared to $25,393.00 in 2017. Health benefits increased over $1,000,000 compared to 2017. (Note: The medical went up $2,000 because Parsippany “self-insurance” rates are calculated by an actuary each year.) The medical includes prescription, medical, dental and vision.
  2. The total number of employees receiving health care in 2018 is 392, as compared in 2017 at 401. That is a drop of nine employees. The number of retired employees increased of ten. (2017 had 163 retired employees receiving medical benefits and 2018 has a total of 173).
  3. Included in the budget is mandatory payments of $1,093,000.
  4.  The “900,000” breaks down as follows: $520,000 for the down payment for the radio ordinance approved at the end of 2017 (Ordinance No. 2017:24) and $345,277 for the increase in Pension Police and Firemen’s Retirement System. Another increase was in debt service of $228,376. These are “uncontrollable  expenses.” When Mr. Carifi discussed the $900,000 it was an estimate but the actual is over $1,093,000. (Click here to read Ordinance No. 2017:24)
  5. $720,391 equates a tax point percentage. The $1,093,000 will increase municipal taxes by over 1.5% alone. These are “uncontrollable expenses.”
    Proposed Tax Increase 3.5%
    Less Uncontrollable Expenses 1.5%
     2.0%
  6. If the “uncontrollable expenses” were zero, the 2018 municipal tax increase would have been 2.0%.
    Parsippany-Troy Hills CFO Ann Cucci

    At one point in the meeting, CFO Ann Cucci pointed out that the budget needs to be introduced by June 29. She suggested the budget be introduced and Council members dePierro and Gragnani can amend the budget before the final passage on Tuesday, July 24. Final passage must be 28 days after introduction according to the statue.

    “My concern regarding this 2018 budget is the newly created or additional personnel primarily in administration. Six positions in my opinion, unnecessary or highly overpaid. Salary, pension and benefit costs for these six positions total over $500,000. Since a tax point is approximately $720,000, salary, pension and benefit costs for these six positions calculates to approximately 7/10 of a tax point, so a 3.5% increase in our budget could have been reduced to 2.8% without the additional staff. A significant difference. Because of the huge tax increase and the unnecessary expensive positions, I vote no in this budget” said Councilman Michael dePierro.

    Councilwoman Loretta Gragnani

    Councilwoman Loretta Gragnani said “During the past several weeks, the 2018 budget presentation, we have heard a lot of municipal dialogue about how the 2017 budget should never have been approved. However, despite this convenient dialogue on the part of the municipal staff, at no time during the entire 2017 budget process and in no uncertain terms did pass, Former Council Vice President Robert Peluso and myself serving on the finance committee, had heard from the BA (Business Administrator) or the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) that the 2017 fiscal plan was not a viable budget. Was I taken back? Yes, I was. The proposed 2018 mayoral budget will be a hardship to Parsippany families and seniors. A 3.5% tax on homes assessed at approximately $309,000 to $500,000, will see a total tax increase in the range of $212 to $350. Families and seniors living on fixed income, paycheck to paycheck, not receiving state or federal pensions, I believe will be overwhelmed financially. Many have received the homestead rebate relief last year, but this year, with the negotiations being conducted in Trenton, it will possibly that the rebate may be cut in half. As Councilman dePierro mentioned, unnecessary new hires created ministerial positions and additional costs incurred under this administration have impacted this budget. If the Murphy Administration in Trenton extended the 2% cap, this administration would be forced to reject this proposed budget and adhere to the cap in the interest of property owners. I vote no on this proposal.”

    Council Vice President Janice McCarthy said “I disagree with that because the real problem is there was a zero tax increase last year. Expenses do not stay stagnant. They increase, there is no way that they stayed. They stayed stagnant to compensate for what should have been done last year. So let me just say that the 0% tax increase in 2017 and years of deficit spending, and its deficit spending when you use the sore fund to compensate for municipal expenses when the property taxes can’t cover and the prior administration and council put the town in a very difficult position that will take years to resolve years to resolve now.”

    “Now you can talk about these new hires and we can make some partisan points about this. I think our obligation here is to work together and get out of this a financial difficulty and move forward. If we want to make it about the town and the town residents, Let’s do that. If we want to make it about partisan politics, you can do that,” said McCarthy.

    Parsippany-Troy Hills Council President Paul Carifi, Jr.

    Council President Paul Carifi, Jr., stated “We’ve had these budget books for two and a half months. Mr. dePierro or Mrs. Gragnani, I haven’t heard one recommendation from you in reference to cutting anything. These six positions, I don’t even know which six positions you’re referring to. I’m going to guess from what people have asked in reference to two positions. I think one of them that people keep referring to what previous meetings was filled up until recently and became vacant and then that one was filled. Another one, if I believe what I think it is, has been vacant for awhile and that one was filled. The other four positions I don’t know who they are but I’m assuming they are replacements for people that are no longer here. But that said, we have no recommendations from either one of you for any kind of cuts.”

    “I know myself and Mrs. McCarthy are on the Finance Committee. I know we met with the Mayor, Mrs. Sandman and Mrs. Cucci. We made a number of cuts to the original budget that was presented, hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it down to 3.5%. It was stated at our last meeting by our auditor, by our CFO, by our Business Administrator, I specifically asked, are we in this situation because of what the former Mayor, Mr. Barberio did with his 0% budget? They all agreed we are. It was also stated that, Mr. dePierro, you brought up the fact about the library in 2016 we had to bail out the library and that was $872,000 and that’s the reason for the 4.2% increase. It was stated at our last budget meeting that there’s $900,000 in mandatory payments. Mandatory payments that we have no choice, but we must pay the increase of $900,000, which is more than the library. The budget that year was 4.2%. This one’s coming in at 3.5%. That’s $28,000 more than what it was the additional costs for the library. So already we were $900,000 in the hole starting on the budget,” he continued.

    “I voted no because Mayor Barberio decided to take another $1.2 million of surplus last year and make it $3.2 million. I went to the Mayor at our finance committee meeting and said, you know, we’re going to start reducing that. And he agreed we’d start to reduce the surplus. So that’s down almost three, approximately $300,000 and it’s trending down. We brought that up last meeting so that we’re not using surplus money to cover what the budget is. I also asked the auditor, our CFO (Ms. Cucci) and our Business Administrator (Mrs. Sandman), the people who deal with the money on a daily basis in order to get this budget under 2%, would we have to cut services to our residents and lay off employees? And they all agreed that that would. What would we would have to do in order to do that? Now I ask people, because I did my due diligence, I contacted in the last couple of weeks a 172 people and I asked them for a 3.5% or approximately $64 for the average home in our town…Do you want your services cut? Do you want to see employees get laid off? Do you want to see possibly a reduction in your Police Department? In this budget, there’s money included for Class Threes (officers) so we can have more protection in our schools. If we have to trim the budget and we have to get rid of people. I’m not saying that it would come from the Police Department, but that could be a possibility and not one person I talked to out of 172 people wanted to see any reduction in any essential services, any reduction in police protection, any reduction in any service. It was brought up about the seniors. Out of those 172 people, a lot of those people I spoke to were senior citizens. Mr. Schindel and they also agreed after I explained to them what had happened.”

    “This has nothing to do with being Republican or Democrat, I’m trying to do the right thing for the people. And I did do my due diligence. I contacted 172 people and not one person said they wanted their services reduced at $64. Everyone says, oh, you know the, our Town, my taxes. Yeah. Am I happy about this budget? Absolutely not. Would I like to see no one’s taxes go up. Okay. But we are. It was stated we are only 22%, 23% of your budget. The school tax is the major percentage of your budget. Okay. Not Us. We only control 22, 23% of your budget. Okay. So again, doing my due diligence, I am not happy. Am I happy about a three and a half percent increase? Absolutely not, but it’s what’s needed to be done. Unless you want to cut services and lay off employees that work for this town, which I do not want to do. Therefore I vote yes,” continued Carifi.

    The motion passed with three yes votes.

    To correct another online publication that stated “The Parsippany-Troy Hills Council needs four votes to introduce this budget. Currently they have three.” That is an incorrect statement. The budget only needs three votes to be introduced and three votes for final approval.

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