Council VP Indicates Budget is Smoke and Mirrors Presented by Mayor Barberio

Mayor James Barberio

PARSIPPANY — The Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Council on Tuesday, July 19, approved the Mayor’s $68.1 million budget for 2016 that reflects higher overall higher expenses with one dissenting vote by Councilman Robert Peluso.

The budget calls for a $42,649,736 amount to be raised by taxes compared to $40,958,517 in 2015.

The budget was introduced to the Council on Tuesday, June 9 which was late in introduction, approval, and adoption.  According to NJ Department of Community Affair’s Division of Local Government Services, N.J.S.A. 40A:4-5.1, the Local Finance Board approved the statutory budget deadline with municipal introduction and approval of budget for March 18, 2016 and the Municipal Adoption by April 22, 2016.

It further noted that a judicial determination of gross failure to comply with provisions of the Local Budget Law is one of the conditions for which the Local Finance Board may determine that a municipality is subject to State Supervision (N.J.S.A. 52:27BB-55 and 56).

According to New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, a letter dated June 3, 2016 was issued to the Administration referencing the notice of late introduction of municipal budget and an order to introduce it. The letter further indicated that “while some delay is understandable, the fact that your municipality (Parsippany) has not introduced a budget within the time frame authorized by the Division  compromises the municipality’s fiscal integrity.” Parsippany Focus received a copy of the letter through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). (Click here). The letter was discussed at the Council meeting on Tuesday.

Barberio’s proposal for 2016 represented a municipal tax increase and an impact on average residential tax payments 4.2%.  Based upon the average residential assessment of $309,206, projected impact would be $74.21 which would be higher for homes with higher assessments.

This municipal portion would be added to increases in school, county, and average fire district tax to approximately $207 per household.

Salaries for the Mayor and Council members would increase 2% for 2016 and inquires have been made if it will be retroactive to January 1, 2016.

It should be noted that Councilman Peluso refused his 2% increase which he publically announced since he has been a Councilman.

Residents have noted that they have seen an increase in their tax bills since estimated third quarter tax bills have been mailed after June 21.

When Parsippany Focus asked each elected Council member to comment on the budget, Councilwoman Loretta Gragnani, Councilman Michael dePierro did not answer the request.

Council Vice President Robert Peluso was reappointed to serve another two years as Vice President
Council Vice President Robert Peluso voted down Mayor Barberio’s budget

Council Vice President Robert Peluso said in a prepared statement “New Jersey’s property taxes are already the highest in the nation; Parsippany’s residents will see a significant bump up on their tax bills for 2016. Too many of our tax dollars in Parsippany go to support lawyers and overtime.  The budget presented by the Mayor seeks more money for attorneys and is already over budget in overtime. I lead by example and started making cuts by first refusing my 2% salary increase which was well above the latest US inflation rate of 1.00% and asked the Mayor to do the same. Also, as an individual Councilman, I made recommendations to cut expenses that would not reduce public services, but I didn’t have support from the Mayor or the Council. And while I may have voted against unnecessary spending in the general budget, I supported bond ordinances that included “paying-as-we-go” because it’s important to maintain our quality of life and improve our infrastructure such as purchasing new ambulances.  Additionally I recommended some solid revenue generating ideas at last year’s budget hearings, which have not been acted upon.

The Mayor introduced the 2016 Township Budget after receiving a notice of late introduction from “NJ Division of Local Government Services that ordered him” to introduce the budget since under NJ statutes it was required to be introduced by March 18 and Adopted by April 22.

The smoke and mirrors come in when the Mayor tells you the impact on average residential tax payment is an increase of 4.2% when the actual increase is approximately 12%. The difference is that he is using resident’s money taken from other sources, but which is still your money to fund this tax increase. Mayor Barberio took $2.5 million from Sewer Utility revenue and $780,000 from the Township’s general cash fund reserves to fund his historic $3.3M spending increase, a spending increase that may not be sustainable in the long term.

The Mayor can offer all the happy political spin he wants, but I don’t think taxpayers are feeling quite so chipper about local government reaching into their pockets for more of their hard earned money to support another property tax hike.  My advice to the Mayor is to start the budget process early this year for 2017, use a zero-based approach to balance the budget, and not increase taxes in 2017.  Let’s work together to passionately make our government as frugal and responsible as possible while maintaining our services.”

Parsippany-Troy Hills Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr.
Parsippany-Troy Hills Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr.

Councilman Paul Carifi stated “I am not happy at all with the increase but unfortunately with a situation that occurred at the library there needed to be an increase or there would have had to be major cuts in services and personnel at the library. I have been assured by the business administrator that this situation is being addressed and steps are being taken so that this will not occur again. I did make recommendations for some cuts to the original proposed budget which were agreed upon by the rest of the council which did bring the budget down significantly. Once again though the situation that occurred at the library is the major cause for the increase in this years budget.”

Council President Lou Valori
Council President Lou Valori

Council President Lou Valori stated “The Finance Committee, was charged five months ago with recommending proposed budget cuts and operational efficiencies.  Not one proposal was made. Additionally, the Township Council and Mayor conducted exhaustive budget hearings — with all department heads participating.  At no point were budget cuts proposed any other council member during this transparent process where everyone had an opportunity for input.  In fact, all council members agreed the proposed FY2017 budget was a fiscally responsible and sustainable plan. Unfortunately, this year’s budget was forced to resolve an enormous library debt in the amount of $800,000.  Without the financial assistance, all township library branches would have to permanent close its doors, cutting off access to educational resources and compromising the quality-of-life for thousands of students and residents. Safety is this Township’s priority.  To that end, residents can sleep better at night knowing this council increased our police force from a dangerously low 86 officers to 106 members.  This critical manpower increase will provide for greater protection of our residents and township students alike during times when public unrest nationally and internationally makes headline news regularly.  On a brighter note, improvements and much-needed infrastructure investments in our Township this year will provide for a reduction in taxes for the FY 2017 budget.  State-of-good-repair efforts include upgrades to our sewage treatment plant, improved road drainage and curbing, and renovations to the Knoll Country Club which will increase membership resulting in added revenue for the township. I am proud to have worked side-by-side with township officials and staff focused on preparing a fiscally sound plan which provides for safety and security for residents while maintaining the precious services that they need, treasure and deserve,” continued Council President Louis Valori.