April 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Proposed Teaneck Budget Aims to Lower Property Tax

Teaneck Township Manager William Broughton recently presented a revised 2016 municipal budget aimed at marginally decreasing the tax levy. This comes after last year’s approved budget of a zero percent increase. Through the combination of a surplus along with various cuts in spending, Broughton proposed a tax levy of around $53 million that would basically yield no property tax increase.

The initial budget Broughton proposed back in February would have increased the tax levy by 2.26 percent, costing homeowners of the average assessed house an additional $95 in annual taxes. However, the council, with a formal motion made by Councilman Mark Schwartz, who is also co-publisher of JLNJ, necessitated Broughton decrease an additional $200,000 from the levy, thereby proposing a slight decrease in property tax. This prompted the revised budget proposed last week.

When asked his objective for the proposed budget, Broughton explained, “We are putting together a budget that is responsible and maintains the services that Teaneck residents are accustomed to, while mitigating any increase to the tax levy.” Broughton told the Jewish Link that he is more comfortable this year with a budget proposal that includes a zero percent tax increase or even a slight decrease, as he feels the town is currently in a better financial position.

Various recommendations were made where the township could potentially cut costs. One example mentioned at recent council meetings was delaying the purchase of new police cars, a $200,000 savings, but no decisions were formally reached. Certain elements that were decreased from the February budget proposal include the township’s operating budget for group insurance, as well as the township’s snow removal budget.

Nobody is advocating to eliminate necessary services and amenities for the township. However, keeping the tax burden at bay appears to be the pervading feeling amongst residents and certain council members alike. Very vocal and often irate residents repeatedly come before council, seeking to gain a better understanding of where taxpayer dollars are being spent. Their main focus is to ensure that property taxes are not increased as they feel overburdened as is. Conversely, there are other members of the council who worry that a less than zero percent increase will only result in a larger surge in the tax levy down the road. Some council members feel there isn’t much the town, which is already functioning with less than needed in certain departments, can afford to cut.

Councilman Henry Pruitt told the Jewish Link he supports the proposed budget of a minus-zero increase. However, he believes the focus should be on what is needed to run the town in a credible way that meets the necessary expenses. When asked if he foresees a sizable tax break over the next couple of years, he said, “We are not going to be able to reduce taxes, just reduce the rise in taxes. Every year costs the township more than the previous year. We will hopefully succeed in modifying the increases, not eliminating them.” Pruitt added he strongly believes development is a crucial factor in the solution to keep taxes from escalating. Additional revenue has to come from someplace and new development is clearly a viable option, he said.

Likewise, Councilman Mohammed Hameeduddin agreed that the main focus in the quest to raise revenues is the development projects. The council has worked diligently to ensure proper development of the town so that the face of Teaneck remains the same. “We are not looking to go from suburban to urban, rather to generate additional funds through smart developments,” clarified Hameeduddin. “I am pleased with this year’s budget process and am comfortable with the revenues and expenditures we have. I am confident that we will be in good shape with our budget for the next couple of years.”

The township also has some extra money available as a result of the new tax sale date. The date used to be in November and was changed to January. Consequently, the amount of money the township used to lay out to cover uncollected taxes has significantly diminished. This in turn left more money in the budget. The tax collection is nearly at 100 percent according to Schwartz.

In general, most of the officials who spoke to the Jewish Link are confident in the state of the budget for this year and the next couple of years. Schwartz reiterated that he believes development is the key to the town’s success. “The more money we bring in, there is no spending that needs to be cut and taxes can remain the same. We have trimmed a lot and now we have to put some meat back on our bones through development,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Elie Katz affirmed that he will only support a zero percent tax increase. He said he has spent many years bringing in additional revenue from sources such as hotel occupancy, sewer taxes and cell-phone-tower taxes. However, it is clearly not sufficient, and therefore he believes the community do a little more belt-tightening. “I am going to continue to advocate for low to no new increases because I want our residents to afford to live in this town and right now it is simply unaffordable for many.”

Similarly, Councilman Alan Sohn is in favor of a zero percent tax increase. He feels the critical factor is how you get to that number. He recommended underspending and continuing to cut expenses in a mindful way. “This is the only foreseeable way to bring in the budget at a zero percent (or less) increase and reproduce that for the next couple of years. Teaneck is a great place and we want to see more people moving in and businesses opening locally. The taxes are challenging and turn many away. Our goal is to keep them coming by eliminating a burdensome increase,” added Sohn.

Mayor Lizette Parker expressed that in the past she was concerned about a proposed zero percent increase, asserting that it was potentially irresponsible management of the town. However, given the fiscal position that the town is currently in and the surplus being what it is, she is in agreement with the proposal. “I feel comfortable introducing this budget and subsequently passing it based on data submitted by the township manager,” Parker told the Jewish Link. “We recognize and hear the concerns of our residents and work hard to avoid an increase in taxes while maintaining the services expected,” she said.

Councilman Jason Castle was contacted, but did not respond to the Jewish Link by press time. However, from the perspectives gained from most of the council, it appears unanimous that the goal is to ensure the services and amenities Teaneck residents deserve while avoiding an increase to already oppressive tax rates. The prevailing subject seems to be how this goal is most successfully achieved.

By Andrea Nissel

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles