North Bergen introduced its 2017 budget at the March 8 Board of Commissioners meeting with a 1 percent tax increase.
Town Administrator Chris Pianese said that the nearly flat tax amount was hard to maintain because state aid has been cut drastically over the last 10 years, to $7.1 million last year from $13.7 in 2006.
“It’s difficult maintaining that budget with that amount of aid, but we can do it.”--Chris Pianese
Pianese said that spending only increased by around $400,000 from this year to last year.
The budget covers Jan. 1, 2017 through Dec. 31.
Pianese said that the town did such a good job of holding the line on spending that they ended last year with $13 million in surplus. He told residents at the meeting that it was “the highest surplus we ever ended the year with.”
The town managed the improved budget while lowering its debts. Its annual payment of debt went from $8.5 million in 2012 to $6 million in 2016. It projects it will only pay $5.2 million in debt this year.
On the same day the commissioners met, the town's Aa3 bond credit rating was affirmed by credit rating agency Moody, with a positive outlook. That means the town has a very strong capacity to meet its financial commitments. “That is usually a step towards an upgrade,” Pianese explained. “We're now on the positive end of this grade.”
The budget will also allow for continued and improved services for residents. These include a new ambulance, replacement of 100 police cameras around town with high-resolution versions, new artificial turf at Bruins Stadium, and a complete paving of Park Avenue.
The commissioners will take a final vote on the budget at a future meeting. Residents can contact the commissioners before the vote or speak out at that meeting if they have a suggestion or comment about the budget.
Also at the meeting
A resolution to request PSE&G install two street light units at 3711 Liberty Ave. was passed at the meeting. “What normally happens is, that's usually based on a complaint from the neighborhood,” Pianese explained. “We send our police officers to check, and they either recommend or don't recommend that additional lights be put in. In this case, they did.”
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