$95.4M budget to run town this year

Includes slight tax increase, $12.5 million surplus

Local business owner Bob Ceragno, a colorectal cancer survivor, accepts a proclamation designating March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in North Bergen. (Photo credit: Art Schwartz)
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Local business owner Bob Ceragno, a colorectal cancer survivor, accepts a proclamation designating March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in North Bergen. (Photo credit: Art Schwartz)

North Bergen officials introduced the town’s annual budget at their March 21 meeting. The proposed $95.4 million budget is higher than the $89.4 million introduced budget for 2017, due to cost increases, officials said.
However, the effect on local taxes will be slight, officials said. While the tax levy – or the total to be contributed by all taxpayers – will increase by $1.7 million, it will work out to a $66 per year increase on an average North Bergen home.
Residents pay overall property taxes that are determined by the county, school, and municipal budgets. This new town budget only affects the municipal portion.
The budget covers spending from this past Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. The budgets are often late because towns have to wait to find out how much state aid they are getting.
The biggest items impacting the budget this year include increased costs for police, parks, health benefits, and pension. The costs will add an additional $2.45 million in overall expenses.
A budget hearing and final vote will take place April 25.

Rising costs

Costs for the North Bergen Police Department rose by $1 million this year, due to hiring of special, part-time officers and civilian staff, and a 2 percent salary increase in a collective bargaining agreement.
Another increase in the budget can be attributed to rising health insurance costs–$850,000. Another $400,000 will go towards annual state mandated pension costs.
The budget also allocates $200,000 to the town’s recreation department. That increase is largely due to growth in resident participation and facility use, and expansion of many recreation programs and events.

Extra revenue, too

Some of the increasing costs can be offset with $600,000 in revenue from the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program. PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) agreements for developers allow them to avoid the fluctuations of overall taxes (determined by county, school, and city budgets) and make payments directly to a city. Some of these payments have been increasing annually.
Officials are also anticipating $200,000 in revenue from ambulance fees. Though residents do not pay for ambulance services via taxes or fees, charges are billed to individual insurances. The extra revenue is expected to come from changes in billing services and efficiency increases.
This year, the township has a $12.5 million surplus, slightly lower than $13.2 million from last year.

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“A lot of us here are over 50, you’ve gone through colonoscopy time.” – Bob Ceragno

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Raising municipal cap bank
At the meeting, the township also introduced an ordinance to increase the municipal budget cap rate to 3.5 percent, which means they can exceed the amount of a state-capped increase of 2.5 percent.
This will allow the town to increase its spending by $632,000, officials said. But the town is not likely to take advantage of the full cap increase.
“We don’t even need the full 2.5 percent,” Township Administrator Chris Pianese said. “We pass it because conservatively, if you need extra spending, you can put it in a cap bank.”
A hearing on the increase will take place at the council meeting April 25.
Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund

A resolution passed at the meeting will submit the town’s application to the Hudson County Open Space and Trust Fund for $500,000. With $400,000 of town money, the total $900,000 would provide upgrades and improvements to Policeman’s Memorial Park. Those improvements include new playground equipment and ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant surfacing; replacing fencing, basketball court striping, picnic and game tables; installation of a spray park, and improved lighting.

Officials honor colorectal cancer survivor

Also at the commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, March 21, the commissioners issued a proclamation designating March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in North Bergen.
They gave the proclamation to Bob Ceragno, owner of Eye Contact Vision Center at 7733 Bergenline Ave., and a colorectal cancer survivor. For the last few years, Ceragno’s store has held a fundraiser for Fight Colorectal Cancer, a non-profit made of survivors seeking a cure.
North Bergen educators made a donation to Ceragno at his store on Wednesday, March 28. (see next week’s North Bergen Reporter for more information). In 2015, Ceragno went for screening after finding blood in the toilet.
He survived, largely due to early detection and treatment. He used the meeting to urge others to get tested for the cancer, especially younger people.
“A lot of us here are over 50, you’ve gone through colonoscopy time,” Ceragno said. “But now it’s hitting a lot of the younger generation and it’s just being overlooked. A lot of people in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s, are in Stage 3 and Stage 4 colon cancer, and it’s a lot more difficult at that stage to be treated.”
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. among men and women. It is expected to cause at least 50,630 deaths this year, the organization says.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com