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Tax Levy Up 1.86 Percent, Spending 1.9 Under Budget Introduced Thursday

Fort Lee Council introduced the 2012 municipal budget Thursday; a hearing is scheduled for April 19.

The Fort Lee Borough Council introduced its 2012 municipal budget Thursday, with spending up 1.9 percent, and a tax levy increase of 1.86 percent over last year’s budget.

The total amount of money borough officials anticipate raising through taxation is roughly $58.7 million, and the total anticipated general appropriations for 2012 at introduction amount to slightly less than $69.4 million under the proposed budget.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said Thursday he’s “very, very proud of where this borough is fiscally as of today.”

“I think that this budget is as strong as any budget of any community in Bergen County,” Sokolich said, noting that no services have been cut, and that the municipal workforce has been reduced by about 15 percent through attrition without furloughs or layoffs. He also said the borough continues to “go through an aggressive repayment program” to reduce bond debt, having reduced it by “upwards of $30 million” during the current administration.

However the mayor did say that the proposed budget is a work in progress and acknowledged that it isn’t perfect.

“We’re not happy yet; this is a pretty substantially complete package, but we continue to work on it every day to make it even better,” Sokolich said. “Of course we want it to be at zero. Of course we want to issue refund checks. Quite frankly, a few months ago, I told you that we were going to do better than we actually did. But we’re going to continue to work on it.”

He noted as “surprises” health benefits going up by nearly $1 million, as well as increases in salaries and wages and debt services.

Borough auditor Steve Wielkotz called the 1.9 percent increase on the spending side of the budget “pretty remarkable.”

Wielkotz said salaries for borough employees and health benefits were the two main “drivers” in the increased spending.

“I think the most important piece on the spending side is that all of the operating costs, all of the departmental costs, once again this year, for I believe the fourth or fifth year in row, are less than they were the previous year,” Wielkotz said. “This year all of the operating costs across the budget are going down almost $297,000 from last year.”

He added that the governing body has been able to deal with the difficult economic climate of the past four to five years “in a very business-like manner—through attrition.”

“There’s been a significant amount of retirements across the board,” Wielkotz said. “There’s been filling of positions only when those positions were critical to provide services to the taxpayers.”

Below is a look at the 2012 municipal budget as introduced at Thursday’s regular meeting of the Fort Lee Mayor and Council:

Revenue and Appropriation Summaries

Summary of Revenues 2012 (anticipated) 2011 1. Surplus $2,400,000.00 $2,250,556.51 2. Total Miscellaneous Revenues $7,045,751.50 $6,805,141.87 3. Receipts from Delinquent Taxes $1,245,000.00 $1,400,000.00 4. a) Local Tax for Municipal Purposes $56,611,017.81 $55,470,700.92 b) Addition to Local District School Tax c) Minimum Library Tax $2,089,905.00 $2,139,250.00 Total Amount Raised by Taxes $58,700,922.81 $57,609,950.92 Total General Revenues $69,391,674.31 $68,065,649.30 Summary of Appropriations 2012 Budget 2011 Budget 1. Operating Expenses: Salaries & Wages $26,045,960.00 $25,345,173.00                                   Other Expenses $27,665,343.69 $26,793,018.64 2. Deferred Charges & Other Appropriations $5,798,746.62 $6,288,593.66 3. Capital Improvements $50,000.00 $300,000.00 4. Debt Service (Include for School Purposes) $8,131,624.00 $7,712,364.00 5. Reserve for Uncollected Taxes $1,700,000.00 $1,617,500.00 Total General Appropriations $69,391,674.31 $68,065,649.30 Total Number Employees as of 12/31 (FT) 246 255

Balance of Outstanding Debt

General Utility-Other Interest $2,811,864.00 Principal $5,225,000.00 Outstanding Balance $56,517,000.00

A hearing on the budget and tax resolution is scheduled for April 19 at 8 p.m. at .

Copies of the budget are available at the borough clerk’s office and will be available on the borough’s website by the end of the day Friday.

Keith Jensen March 09, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Don't take credit for what Gov. Christie had the courage to do, unless you thank him. The only significant reductions were a 15% reduction in the workforce because of attrition. Guess why? Because, someone finally stood up to the public employees not being able to bank sick days untill they retire. http://fortlee.patch.com/articles/christie-calls-for-elimination-of-vacation-and-sick-time-payouts-for-public-workers-2d9fb0d3 In Fort Lee, taxpayers have about $9.2 million in future liabilities for sick and vacation time payouts, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. So, unless some major changes... bold attempts at out of control benefits and spending, this budget won't be nearly as hard to reign in as the one next year and exponentially thereafter. The second problem in this article is the high costs of medical insurance. According to the article published by The Record: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/editorials/141149103_A_better_plan.html There is no reason to use any outside insurer. This begets, why does the person below handle our insurance? Health Benefits – Michelle Kent from Brown & Brown Insurance, presented on Jan 12th to the Mayor and Council. I am not sure if Michelle won the contract, but it would be interesting to find out who has this contract and how it compares to the State's offering for Ft.Lee; not to mention, also to compare the plan of the Board of Educations' contract.
William Mays March 09, 2012 at 07:52 PM
What is your problem with public employees? They haven't done anything to hurt you, and yet you treat them like crap. They are just like any of us, except they work for the government.
Keith Jensen March 12, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Mr. Cohen hit it on the head a year ago to the day, underscored by today's LA Times, where another U.S. city is about to go bankrupt, because the public unions are not compromising; mostly because the elected officials are held accountable to their public employees rather than their constituents. "People are paying plenty of taxes. This is a high-tax town," said a Stockton, CA resident. "The problem is the sweetheart deals they gave the employee unions. I'm 56 and I can't retire; I'd go broke. But these public employees have tremendous retirement deals. I want to see the city go bankrupt now. Break the deals." http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-stockton-bankruptcy-20120312,0,1237230.story This is the reason why you cannot have a one party ruled government. Our elected leaders can brush our deficit under the carpet only so long, or kick that can down the road. To my knowledge the Fort Lee police still don't have a contract, and the negotiations have gone on for nearly 4 years as I understand, behind closed doors. True leadership would make a decision and ink a contract for our protection. It is not fair to the officers, nor the taxpayers. The only person benefiting is the lawyer arbitrating, and guess who is the legal counsel. Friends of our elected officials I'm told. One year later and we are in the same position: http://fortlee.patch.com/articles/on-the-agenda-municipal-budget-highlights-mayor-and-council-meeting
William Mays March 13, 2012 at 12:07 AM
I agree with you on the Fort Lee Police, they have to be the most incompetent police force I know of, we pay them 100k each, and they continue to treat us like crap.

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