PARSIPPANY — Fireworks exploded at the June 1 and June 13 budget hearings with Township CFO Ann Cucci and Business Administrator Ellen Sandman blasting their former boss, James Barberio with words like ‘irresponsible’ and ‘horrible’ when referring to the 2017 budget and it’s 0% tax increase. During his eight years in office, Barberio was able to show no increase in taxes twice; 2013 and 2017, years he was up for re-election. Taxes increased substantially in the years following his flatted-lined budgets.
On June 1, when asked by Council Vice President McCarthy why there is a 3.5% proposed increase for 2018, when zero was attained in 2017, CFO Cucci stated “I’ll say this about last year  now. It was the most irresponsible, horrible budget I’ve ever done. I rest my case…There was no such thing as zero. I fought. Ellen [Sandman] fought. We did not want it. I know the council didn’t want it. I know Mr Carifi. He didn’t want it as well. Some people voted for it because they felt it was the right thing to do. Did I? No. And did Ellen? No.”
Sandman followed Cucci by adding “I said there is no such thing as a zero and I thank you council president [Carifi] for voting no. I’m sorry, I’m so emotional about this because now the exponential effect of this is, is to the moon. We have cut things, revenue sources. One source is where you try to keep them there for that rainy day. They’re gone…” (Editors Note: To view video and recording from June 1 meeting, click here. These quotes can be found at approximately 49 minutes into the tape).
The proposed 3.5% increase only affects the municipal portion of your tax bill, which is approximately 20% of the total real estate tax.
With the 2017 budget remaining flat, and 2017 expenses, including hefty medical and legal bills deferred to this current year, municipal taxes are expected to increase 3.5% or $64.38 for the average homeowner. In 2016, under Mayor Barberio, taxes were raised 4.2% or $74.21 for the average homeowner. (Click here to view the 2016 budget).
Former Councilman Louis Valori, who voted in favor of the budget in 2016 and 2017 attended the June 13 budget hearing and questioned the current proposed hike by stating “We’re at a 3.5% which I think is unheard of, probably historical in this town” forgetting that as Council President in 2016 he lauded the 4.2% increase as a responsible budget. (Click here to read related article –
Council VP Indicates Budget is Smoke and Mirrors Presented by Mayor Barberio).
(Editors Note: Mr. Valori denies the 2016 budget increase was 4.2%. He has attacked this author on various social media outlets. Here is a clipping from the budget that shows the increase of 4.2% and the effect it has on the average residential tax payment).
While former township attorney John Inglesino once coined the term “Louie the Liar” when referring to Mr. Valori, several officers in Town Hall today when this author was in attendance of police promotions in the Council Chambers referred to Mr. Valori as “4 point two Lou.”
Council President Paul Carifi, Jr., said “When the finance committee consisting of myself and Councilwoman McCarthy first met with Business Administrator Ellen Sandman andCFO Mrs. Cucci, we were advised of the horrible situation former Mayor Barberio and Former Councilman President Valori left us in with their so-called zero budget that they came up with last year. Barberio also used over 3 million dollars from the sewer and water utility surplus which was over $1 million more than the previous year. By him not planning ahead for mandatory pension and insurance payments for our employees, as per Mrs. Sandman and Mrs. Cucci, for this year which totals $900,000, taxes need to be raised by just over 2% just to cover those costs let alone other cost of living increases. I knew this was going to happen and that is why I voted no for last year’s budget. With that being said myself along with councilwoman McCarthy and Mayor Soriano came up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in reductions from the original budget which reduced the current budget to where it is now which our Township Auditor, Mr. Raymond Sarinelli, Mrs. Sandman and Mrs. Cucci have all stated it is trimmed to the bare bone. At our last budget meeting I questioned our auditor Mr. Sarinelli as well as Mrs. Cucci and Mrs. Sandman and asked them point-blank are we in this situation where we need to increase the budget 3.5% because of what former Mayor Barberio’s budget did to our finances and all three agreed that yes it has. I also asked Sandman and Cucci if it is true that we would have to cut services to our residents and eliminate a substantial number of employees to get the budget under 2% and they said yes. I am strongly opposed to reducing essential services to our residents which also could include our police protection in our schools because former Mayor Barberio mismanaged the town’s budget. You can not put a price on the protection of our children and our residents in addition to the services we offer our residents. I am certainly not happy about the current increase, but unfortunately because of this situation we were left in we don’t have much of a choice.”
When asked after the officer promotion ceremony, Mayor Soriano stated, “Some, including those who voted for a 4.2% tax increase just two years ago, will oppose this budget purely for political gain. The fact is that this bipartisan budget is the first major step in repairing the damage done to our finances by consecutive election years of raising spending without raising revenue.”