By Council Vice President Janice McCarthy
Former councilman Lou Valori put on quite a show at last Wednesday night’s budget hearing with the major theme of his performance highlighting campaign commitments of the new administration that are no longer possible. What he failed to mention was why: the answer is because the prior administration and council chose to engineer a zero-tax increase in an election year ignoring the consequences in subsequent years. A zero-tax increase in 2017, along with years of deficit spending that required the transfer of increasing amounts of sewer surplus to cover higher municipal expenses put the town in a very difficult financial position that will take years to overcome.
Property taxes while kept low have not been able to cover increasing municipal expenses so more and more sewer surplus has been used to cover the shortfall in revenue raised from property taxes. While the sewer and water utilities surpluses continue to be positive they are regenerating at a lesser rate. In 2017 the sewer surplus alone was not enough to cover the shortfall in property taxes. So last year $700,000 was transferred from the water utility surplus in order to achieve the 2017 zero property tax. In total $3.2 million of utility surplus was used. Continuing on this path is not sustainable and shows why the actions of the prior mayor and council were irresponsible to approve a zero-tax increase.
It was clearly stated at the hearings that totally eliminating the use of utility funds at this point, which Mr.Valori called for in his comments, would increase taxes an estimated 9% plus. That is not fair to Parsippany residents. Instead the proposed budget being reviewed by this council begins to reduce the use of utilities funds gradually while minimizing the tax impact on residents as much as possible. This year the proposed 3.5% tax increase includes 2% cap as promised during the campaign plus 1.5%. The 1.5% at a minimum is necessary to partially cover last year’s politically motivated zero tax increase. This may not be a popular decision but it is one that is more concerned with the welfare of the town and its residents rather than politics.
Conversely during Mr. Valori’s tenure on council he reserved voting for tax increases as much as 4.2% only in non-election years, yet in making his comments at the budget hearing on Wednesday he stated “3.5% is unheard of, probably historical in this town”.
Mr. Valori showed little interest in the facts that were presented at the hearings by the Business Administrator, CFO and Independent Auditor detailing the negative impact of the prior mayor and council’s decisions and more interested in grandstanding that in my opinion was very unprofessional.
He was given 5 minutes like everyone else (uninterrupted). After his comments he took his seat. While Council President Carifi and I each attempted to address his comments, Mr. Valori was disruptive and argumentative, continually interrupting and shouting out comments from his seat. He was asked several times to stop; finally, the Mayor and Council President asked the policeman to restore order. (Facts which obviously escaped Tapinto Parsippany’s recent article)
Hopefully, politics does not influence the decision the council makes on this year’s budget. If we are going to begin to recover financially, the council needs to work together to pass a budget that is in the town’s best interest not the next election.