Weehawken introduced its 2021 Budget at the Nov. 5 township council meeting.
According to Mayor Richard Turner, the township is $3.4 million short in revenue this year due to COVID-19.
Addressing the deficit
According to Chief Financial Officer Lisa Toscano, the state has a system in place to address these revenue shortfalls. In addition to lost revenue, there are a number of expenses due to COVID-19.
The 2021 budget appropriations total approximately $47,202,912. Toscano said this is down about $4.2 million from last year’s budget.
She said this is because miscellaneous revenues are down. However, the township is cutting appropriations to stabilize taxes.
According to Toscano, there will be no increase in municipal taxes this year. However, the library tax, which is dictated by the state, has gone up $114,000. Toscano said that the township doesn’t have a say in that decision.
She said that appropriations could have been raised more, thus raising taxes in the process, but the township decided against it.
Now the budget goes to Trenton for approval, Turner said. The township will hold a public hearing and most likely unofficially adopt the budget in December, whether or not it hears back from the state. When the budget receives state approval, it will be officially adopted.
The public hearing will be held Dec. 9. For more information, visit weehawken-nj.us.
The township also introduced an ordinance alongside the budget that would establish a COLA cap bank.
Toscano said the state put in place the cap bank to raise appropriations to 3.5 percent if needed. Currently, appropriations account for 2.5 percent of the budget.
Toscano said that doesn’t mean the township is going to use those funds. If needed, Weehawken has three years to raise appropriations under the cap bank.
According to Toscano, this gives leverage to use this in the 2021 budget or in subsequent budgets.
A public hearing for the cap bank ordinance will be held on Dec. 9.
Coping with COVID
At the Oct. 28 council meeting, Weehawken introduced two ordinances and accompanying resolutions to address the budget deficit.
The first would consist of the township applying to the state to spread out the deficit over a period of time.
Turner said the township is trying to spread out the fiscal deficit over a five-year period amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Various categories of the budget have been affected by loss of revenue due to COVID-19.
The second ordinance would allow the township to remove COVID-19 expenses from the budget. Toscano said that Weehawken would be able to spread the expenses over several years.
The township is applying for grants from FEMA and hopes to secure additional federal funding. Turner said FEMA funds will offset 80 percent of the expenses.
Of the $2.7 million in relief funding already received by Weehawken, $1.6 million came from FEMA and CARES Act funding. This funding is vital because expenses from pandemic are “astronomical,” according to Turner.
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