Westfield Budget Presented at Town Council Meeting
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 • 10:52pm
WESTFIELD, NJ — The proposed 2013 Westfield municipal budget was presented to the public during the March 19 town council meeting.
Town Administrator Jim Gildea explained that the proposed 2013 tax levy is $25,575,440, which is $523,097 less than what is allowed by the state-required two-percent tax levy cap. This will mean an increase of about $90 a year for the average assessed home, or $7.50 a month.
“We’re only charging the residents what we need,” said Gildea.
Among other things, he also noted that, at $3,073,326, state aid remains flat.
Salary and wages have decreased $129,049 as compared to 2012 because of retirements, salary freezes, reductions in overtime and negotiated concessions from unionized employees.
“The employees that are here have to do more,” said Gildea.
To read our previous story about the budget, click here. The budget and the presentation will be available to the public soon at www.westfieldnj.gov. Finance Policy Committee Chairman Sam Della Fera encouraged anyone with questions to email Budget@Westfieldnj.gov.
A resolution to introduce and approve the 2013 municipal budget was passed later that evening. The budget is expected to be adopted in late April or early May.
A resolution to introduce and approve the 2013 Special Improvement District Budget (which will remain flat) also passed later in that meeting.
After the budget presentation, a hearing was held regarding Special Ordinance No. 2180, a bond ordinance which will make possible the purchase of a mobile command center, generator and transfer switch. (Read our previous story about the command center and emergency equipment here.)
Resident John Blake said that he took statements made at the previous town council meeting regarding the command center to mean that the town was taking the position that it was not to depend on other towns in emergencies, and that he expected that to extend to the fire department.
Gildea called that “comparing apples to oranges.”
Della Fera said that, “When an event like Hurricane Sandy occurs, it doesn’t just happen in Westfield.”
It was noted that the command center would be useful in other situations, and would include a mobile generator. “There was a neighborhood just today that was without power,” noted Della Fera.
Gildea added that the mobile command center was not to be used solely by the police department. The command center “Will be used for police, fire department and rescue squad … and staffed by all three departments,” he said.
Also in response to the idea that Westfield should stop relying on neighboring fire departments for mutual aid, Mayor Andy Skibitsky pointed out that the fire that destroyed downtown businesses a couple of years ago took over 100 firefighters to put out—far more than Westfield could ever employ.
The ordinance passed upon second reading, with all those present on the council voting “yes” except for Councilman David Haas, who had voted “yes” on first reading and was now voting “no.”
“I did vote ‘yes’ on this two weeks ago, and I woke up twice that night,” said Haas.
“I didn’t get a sense in my gut that we needed it,” Haas later told TAP. “Even though it’s an incredible bargain. That’s why it appealed to me.”
“A mobile generator that’s on a trailer … is something that we could obtain for something like $40 to $50 thousand dollars,” said Haas during the meeting.
Though the town had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy this equipment at this price ($249,000, Gildea later told TAP), “I’m not convinced of the need for this item,” Haas said.
The command center can also act as a secondary dispatch center, and Councilman James Foerst argued if the town one day operated a 911 system for other towns (as it could), redundancies were important.
“My greatest concern was this building—if town hall went down,” he said, which would mean Westfield’s 911 system would be down.
Also at that meeting, an ordinance to renew Comcast’s contract with the town passed upon first reading.