PARSIPPANY — After two letters from the Department of Community Affairs, one threatening a personal fine of $25.00 per day to each Township Council member (click here to read story), and the second ordering each Council member to appear at a hearing in front of the Local Finance Board (click here to read story), Council President Michael dePierro scheduled a special meeting for Monday, August 9 to introduce the 2021 Township Budget.
Mayor Soriano submitted a balanced budget that was pre-approved by the State to the Township Council at the Tuesday, July 20 meeting. His proposed budget would have raised taxes by just 2.15%. The budget proposed by Soriano addressed the budget shortfalls of 2020 without putting any burden on taxpayers. Local businesses and hotels were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in decreased tax revenues. The State approved Soriano’s proposal to reallocate unused funds from 2020 to cover the $1.1 million gap in order to help our town recover from the unprecedented economic challenges of COVID-19. Mayor Soriano’s proposal would have allowed Parsippany to move forward without asking the town’s residents to make up the difference. The Town Council’s rejection of Mayor Soriano’s proposal is irresponsible and fails to acknowledge the hardship being faced by so many Parsippany residents as a result of the pandemic. Council President Michael dePierro, Councilwoman Peterson, and Councilwoman McCarthy voted to reject the proposal thus increasing the taxes of the introduced budget to 4.28%.
Council President Michael dePierro stated “The Mayor initially introduced his budget in April that was not statutorily correct, including a $5 million loan (plus interest) that must be paid off within five years; a Fund Balance that may not be used; overestimating revenue and underestimating expenses. The Township Auditors had identified a number of serious errors in the budget and could not certify it. By the end of July, the Administration finally submitted a budget that could be certified.”
“I voted to keep the $1.1 million in the budget so that the tax increase for our residents would remain at 2.15%. By removing that money from the budget raises the taxes to approximately 4.5% which I do not want to do. We already had to increase the sewer and water rates by 39% this past year because our surplus no longer exists. That increase still keeps us in the middle of the county as far as water and sewer rates and those rates have not been raised in 12 years but still counting that and the effects of the COVID pandemic and many residents losing their jobs I just feel increasing taxes above and beyond what was proposed at this time is not fair to our residents. I did my due diligence as I always do and spoke to many residents in the town and every single person that I spoke to said to me please do not raise my taxes any more than what is being proposed and it is for these reasons I voted not to raise taxes more than what was being proposed,” stated Councilman Paul Carifi, Jr.
“The Mayor’s budget, submitted to the Council at its meeting on July 20, 2021, included a resolution to “Authorize Cancellation of Current Fund Appropriation Reserves”. This resolution would allow the Administration to “borrow” $1.1 million from the 2022 budget to balance the 2021 budget. The budget still significantly Overestimated Revenue and Underestimated Expenses,” continued dePierro.
“These “Mayoral Gimmicks”, borrowing from the 2022 budget, overestimating revenue, and underestimating expenses, may get the Mayor through the 2021 budget, but he has pushed most of the Township’s deficit into 2022. He has “Kicked the Can down the road” so he can get reelected. He blamed the previous administration for not leaving him enough surplus,” continued dePierro.
Councilwoman Emily Peterson said that we must stop robbing Peter to pay Paul. She felt that the borrowing of reserves earmarked for 2022 was not a solution in formulating a 2021 budget that should be accepted.
Council Vice President Loretta Gragnani missed the last meeting due to being stuck out of the country with a family member’s COVID diagnosis. She commended the Council for its courageousness in not accepting the $1.1 million dollars in borrowed funds for this year’s budget.
Councilwoman McCarthy stated that the $9 million dollar deficit needs to be addressed and that the Administration was not transparent in working with the Council on creating this budget. She feels it puts the Township in a difficult position with reserves.
“I am glad that the budget has finally been introduced. I am disappointed that it was introduced by the council with a 4.28% tax increase, nearly double the tax increase I had proposed,” said Mayor Michael Soriano, “Parsippany and its residents are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is callous and out of touch to think that this will not hurt our residents.”
There will be a special meeting on Monday, August 16, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building, located at 1001 Parsippany Boulevard. The agenda to the extent known includes a budget meeting. Formal action may or may not be taken, and any other action reasonably related thereto may also be taken.
All five Council members voted ‘Yes’ to introduce the budget. If the budget is approved without the $1.1 million dollar reserve money, Parsippany taxpayers can expect a 4.28% tax increase.