Mayor Soriano’s Open Letter to Parsippany Residents on the 2019 Budget Process

Parsippany-Troy Hills Mayor Michael Soriano (File Photo)

Residents of Parsippany:

When I made the decision to run for Mayor in 2017, my overriding motivation was to stop the financial mismanagement and budget gimmicks that had been tolerated by our previous Councils for far too long.  You don’t need a degree in finance to know that basing decisions around elections is not only a drain on the community, but creates compounding problems that take years to untangle.  Eliminating important jobs, from emergency services to parks and forestry, will result in service cuts to residents.  I want to get Parsippany to the point where our taxes are stable and our financial house is able to respond to the unique and difficult challenges of the 21st century.  That is not something we can achieve if our current Council continues to base decisions around their own re-election.

Kicking the can down the road is a well-practiced technique in government.  It’s the reason that we in Parsippany were the last police department in Morris County to issue our police officers life-saving Narcan.  It’s the reason that we have not created a new Master Plan since the Gerald Ford administration. And it’s the reason that our budget is dependent on water and sewer surplus and one-shot solutions to stay above water. The Council does not get to rubber-stamp budgets for the better part of eight years, ignore the consequences of those decisions, and come back in 2019 saying, “What happened?”

There have been questions raised about when, and I quote, I will stop blaming the prior administration for our township’s fiscal problems. The answer is when this Council stops perpetuating the mistakes of the past.  In our form of government, I do not have the final say on the budget. That power rests with the Council. The Council has, and has always had, the final say on election-year budget gimmicks. The Council has, and has always had, the final say on spending increases without new sources of revenue.  The Council has, and has always had, the final say on the irresponsible use of water and sewer surplus.  Each and every time, the Council has signed onto the policies that led us down this path.  And now, when the chickens are home to roost, they refuse responsibility for the actions they applauded when their party was in charge.

Kick the can down the road, blame, twist the truth, claim ignorance, and work for short-term electoral prospects over the long-term needs of this community. I don’t know if they realize it, but our Council has brought Washington-style politics here to Parsippany.

The GOP press release of March 12 was the perfect example of those sort of tactics.  When Councilwoman Gragnani suggested that the use of any level of water and sewer surplus in this budget, despite her past votes for over $8 million worth of surplus use in prior budgets, was a non-starter, did she realize that she was suggesting a 9% tax increase on the residents of this township? My suspicion is no. I believe that suggestion, and that quote, came from the high-priced Ocean County political consultant that the Republican campaign has hired to issue press releases and, apparently, craft budget policy. I, for one, don’t believe that Parsippany needs someone from South Jersey to determine our budgets.

It’s time to get serious about finances here in Parsippany.  It’s time to stop thinking around election years and start thinking about multi-year plans toward fiscal stability. Cutting Police Officers and EMTs fails that test.  My formal role in this year’s budget process has largely ended.  What I presented is a budget that begins the difficult work of stabilization and fiscal health.  If the Council chooses to ignore that, that is their right as the governing body.  I began my term as Mayor optimistic that we could craft fiscal policies in a bipartisan way that protects Parsippany’s long-term future.  Today, I am doubtful that any Councilmember can see past the next trip to the ballot box.

Michael A. Soriano
Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills