The Weehawken Township Council has adopted its fiscal year 2022 budget.
The council approved the budget at its Jan. 12 meeting, having held its hearing at the last meeting of 2021 on Dec. 22. The council introduced the $48.6 million budget at its Nov. 22 meeting.
“The state has approved our fiscal year 2022 budget,” Mayor Richard Turner said at the Jan. 12 meeting. “We had the hearing at our last meeting, so we’re now allowed to adopt it.”
The council voted unanimously to adopt the budget, which totals $48,632,319, according to Chief Financial Officer Lisa Toscano.
Decreasing the deficit
Due to COVID-19, for the second year in a row the township faced a deficit. In last year’s budget it was $3 million, and this year it’s down to $2 million.
“The $2 million deficit is the year end results of the 2021 SFY which ended June 30, 2021,” Toscano said in an email. “And yes, this was the results of revenue loss directly affected by the pandemic.”
The deficit was caused by a lack of parking and hotel tax revenue, and building permits and fees, according to Turner. However, that deficit can be spread out over the course of a few years per state law.
“The governor and state legislature passed a law allowing pandemic-related revenue deficits to be raised up to 10 years,” Toscano said. “This law allowed us to have more realistic revenue projects for the current budget year as a result of the impact of the pandemic. Many municipalities in the state were faced with the same issue and the state law also allowed them to adjust their budgets.”
“The state has allowed towns to adjust for the deficit, so you don’t hit the taxpayers with everything upfront,” she said. “We’ve been very good at managing that. The state has put laws in place so we can take care of the deficits.”
Balancing the budget
Because of that, the township was able to keep tax rates stable. However, Toscano said that was only part of the reason. Revenue is also increasing and expenditures have been dramatically cut.
“We are now able to estimate revenues closer to what we are receiving, which we expect will reduce the need for any future revenue deficits,” Toscano said. “In addition, we have reduced our appropriations by $3.6 million over the last two pandemic-effected years.”
Toscano said the appropriations and the revenues are both in balance and each are $48,632,319. This year’s budget is a 1.25 percent increase over last year’s budget, according to Turner. Since the 2019-2020 budget, it has decreased by 5.5 percent.
And as the deficit decreases to $2 million, both Toscano and Turner hope to reduce that number to zero in the next budget. That is, if COVID-19 doesn’t continue to ruin those plans.
“Next year we hope to eliminate it if everything continues to go forward,” he said.
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