Secaucus property owners may see the county portion of their tax bills decline this year.
Councilman Robert Costantino announced the good news at the Secaucus Town Council meeting on March 11, noting that taxes are affected by three budgets: the town budget, the school budget, and the county budget. The proposed county budget was finalized this past week.
“The county executive presented their preliminary accounting budget to the [county] freeholders today and it’s our understanding, unlike most other years, that the budget will be a good budget for the town’s taxpayers,” Costantino said.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli provided further explanation regarding the town’s contribution to the county budget. “In 2012 we went up 15 percent,” he said. “I think we were the highest in the county. Last year we went up 10 percent. That’s a 25 percent increases in county taxes for those two years.”
This year is different. “We will see a reduction in the amount we contribute to county tax,” he said. The exact amount has yet to be announced. “Once that happens it will be good news for the community.”
In addition, Mayor Gonnelli announced that the town had a record amount of surplus money for use in its own budget in future years.
“Our surplus number was about $7 million,” he said. “Some of that money will be rolled over because we had to use it for some year-end stuff but we didn’t lose it; we just used it as a cash flow. We wound up with about $5.3 million.”
“Our surplus number was about $7 million.” –Michael Gonnelli
Some of the money will be used to fund public improvements. “We tried to run the gamut,” said Gonnelli. “These may change, but [we are planning] improvements to the Senior Center, a new senior bus, $100,000; pedestrian safety upgrades, $45,000; the Clarendon School Little League softball field will be totally reconstructed.”
Also possible are improvements to the Board of Education playgrounds at the Huber and Clarendon schools.
“I’m pleased to announce that we’re going to be getting a matching grant from GameTime Playground Equipment to do that,” said the mayor. “We budgeted $180,000 but that is 100 percent matched so we may double that.”
Altogether the planned expenditure is about $1.2 million, all of which will be fully funded from the surplus money. “I think it’s the first time that the town has ever done that so we will not be borrowing any money to do these projects,” said Gonnelli.
The complete town budget is expected to be announced on time at the next Town Council meeting on March 25, according to Councilman Costantino, who gave advance notice that the budget was expected to be flat this year, “a zero percent increase.”
Illegal rooming house, illegal parties
Last week the town announced that a house with illegal apartments (a de facto boarding house) had been identified in town and visited by local and state authorities. This led to animated discussion at the meeting.
“We had several complaints about people living in the home,” said Gonnelli. “In fact, one of the complaints came from someone living in the home. There were two people living in the basement. God forbid there was a fire in that basement. There’s no way to get them out of there.”
“We put a press release out about the boarding house to get attention to the issue, which has resulted in about five other complaints that are all being followed up on,” he continued. “Quality of life issues like this boarding house affect neighborhoods.”
Councilman Gary Jeffas brought up another quality of life concern elsewhere in town. Police were alerted when a company advertised for a party at a commercial address on Hartz Way. “These people had taken out a permit to set up an office for 25 workers, and what they did was set up an entire nightclub,” said Jeffas.
The facility was extensively remodeled to included DJ stations and even portions of a fire truck that were installed as part of the décor, Jeffas said. The organizers were charging $50 to attend a party till 5 a.m., with and open bar and free breakfast.
“Luckily the police got word of it and we went out there and stopped it before it happened, and now the organization who set up the entire place and spent a whole lot of money setting up a nightclub is going to be subject to a bunch of penalties,” said Jeffas.
“This is the second time that we’ve had illegal nightclubs like this,” added Gonnelli. “Something like this could really lead to a true hazard. This was located on the second floor of a building. God only knows what the load is, how many people may have been in that building.”
“They had a previous event advertised there for March 1 and it says a reality TV show was filming and you had to sign a waiver if you wanted to attend that party,” said Jeffas, who announced the town is setting up a task force “for the police department, construction department, the fire bureau to work in coordination, to continue on these quality of life issues. They’ll look for violations of town ordinances, town codes.”
“If you hear of anything like this, send it to the police department, because that’s how they got wind of it,” said Jeffas. “Somebody got an advertisement about it and had the foresight to forward it to a police officer.”
More good news
Councilman James Clancy announced major renovations to a bridge in town. “Last Thursday the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) came in to have a meeting with the mayor and David [Drumeler, town administrator] and they are going to redo the bridge on Paterson Plank Road right by the Masonic Temple and the library.”
The work will not begin until 2016 and is expected to last two years. “The DOT wanted to make it one lane of traffic on that bridge while they were doing reconstruction,” said Clancy, but that would have required residents of the north end to travel on Route 3 to get back into the center of town. “So the mayor requested that they keep the two lanes open.”
“It’s not a reconstruction, it’ll be a bridge replacement,” said Mayor Gonnelli. “It’s going to be a brand-new bridge.”
The new structure will be an expansion bridge, without the support in the middle, and will be higher than the current bridge.
Councilman Clancy also announced that the mayor and council awarded a contract to purchase a high-pressure breathing air system. “What that does is fill the air tanks for the firemen. Up to now the air pressure system that we had only would fill the tanks up to three-quarters,” he said. “This way the air pressure for the firemen will be filled to capacity.”
During the meeting, Victor Kennedy was sworn in as the new police and fire chaplain. In attendance for his swearing in were three fire chiefs: Deputy Chief Bryan Schoch, Chief William Fallick, and Battalion Chief Frank Prezioso, along with other members of the fire department and police department.
Memorial Day Parade, senior programs
This year’s Memorial Day Parade will take place on May 17 at noon. Councilman William McKeever said, “They’ve selected two decorated combat veterans from the Korean war, Joe Kellenberger and Mike Yaccarino, to lead the parade as grand marshals.”
McKeever also announced the upcoming Senior Spring Fling 2014, also known as the fourth annual senior citizen prom. “That’s always been fun. That’ll be Thursday, April 3, 2014 from 5 to 8 p.m… because most of the seniors have a curfew of 9 p.m.,” he joked. “Donations are $10 and that goes to SAIL (Student Activities Involvement and Leadership).” Interested parties can call (201) 865-4422 or purchase tickets at the Senior Center.
Seniors can call the same phone number to make appointments for free tax preparation.
“It’s that time of the year again that the mayor and town council are asking the residents to please consider adopting the clock down at the center of town,” said Councilman Clancy. “The silver level is $300. You get your name on the clock. For the gold level, which is $450, you get your name on the clock and you’ll get the little replica of the clock.”
Also available is one more spot at the platinum level, which entitles the donor to get their name on the face of the clock. The cost for that level is $5,000.
“The last and most exciting announcement,” said Councilman Jeffas, is that “the Meadowlands Regional Chamber is giving out their 2014 Leadership Awards at a leadership luncheon, and our very own Mayor Gonnelli is being honored this year. They will have a lunch and it’s to honor people who served their community as well as the chamber, and Mike is one of six honorees this year.”
The luncheon is Thursday, April 24 from noon to 2 p.m. The cost is $75 a ticket.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.