Township of Mahwah, NJ
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The meeting was called to order at 7:30PM by Council President Richter who read the Open Public Meeting Act Statement as prescribed by law. Notice was advertised in The Record on March 21, 2005 stating this meeting would be held on Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 7:30PM in the Council Chambers, at the Municipal Offices at 475 Corporate Drive, Mahwah, New Jersey.

Notice of this meeting is posted on the Municipal Bulletin Board. The minutes of this meeting shall be available in the Municipal Clerk’s Office.

Salute to the Flag.

Present: Councilmembers Alderisio, Calandrillo, DiGiulio (at 8:12PM), Kelly, Paton, Richter and Roth

Also present were the Mayor Richard J. Martel, the Business Administrator, and Deputy Municipal Clerk Mary C. Ross.

On a motion by Calandrillo, seconded by Paton, the meeting was open to the public at 7:31PM. All in favor. Motion carried.

Richter stated this Public Session would be extended due to the Public’s questions on the proposed 2005 Budget. The microphone for the Public was not working. Calandrillo stated she witnessed Deputy Municipal Clerk checking the microphone four times prior to the start of this meeting, and it had worked then. Calandrillo asked Administration to repair the microphone.

Ms. Ruth Harrison of 1 Washington Lane stated she is tired of the raised taxes in New Jersey, particularly in Mahwah. Ms. Harrison asked Council not to raise taxes.

Mr. Allan Kidd of 111 Miller Road stated the reason he ran for Mayor last year, was that he felt the Township was grossly mismanaged. Mr. Kidd stated many facets of the Township are left unfinished, or are not working. Mr. Kidd attributed this, in his opinion, to the poor management of the Township by the Mayor, Council and Business Administrator.

Mr. Kidd stated the current the Mayor, Council and Business Administrator chose to financially provide for buildings and monuments rather then the residents and employees of the Township.

Mr. Kidd stated the proposed tax hike of 20% by the Finance Committee or the 28% proposed tax hike of the Mayor’s Budget were both excessive due to the proposed
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March 23, 2005
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building of a new Police Station. Mr. Kidd stated the Police Officer’s jobs were more important then a new Police Station. Mr. Kidd stated the possible cut of Department of Public Works Employees would be caused by the proposed Department of Public Works Complex. Mr. Kidd stated the Township’s Municipal Building Projects are what is causing most of the Tax Increase problems, and the Township’s spendthrift building habits needed to stop.

Mr. Kidd implored Council to come clean with what they were actually proposing and to halt the “rumor mill” with regards to Employee Cuts. Mr. Kidd felt the 20 % tax hike proposed by the Finance Committee should be sufficient for the Township to operate on, and that the “sky would not fall down upon the Township” if the Mayor’s 28% tax hike was rejected.

Ms. Jean Swartele-Wood of 96 Bridle Path Lane wanted to know the rate of tax increase over the past years so she could make an accurate judgment as to what is being proposed for this year. Ms. Swartele-Wood cited several Township projects including the $200,000.00 footbridge for hiking as being an uneconomical usage of Township funds. Richter stated Administration would get back to her on her questions.

Officer Joseph Horn of 164 Dickinson Lane, Police Benevolence Association Vice President, and he is speaking on behalf of the Police Benevolence Association. Officer Horn took umbrage against Roth who he accused the Police Benevolence Association of using fuzzy math with regards to their proposed budget requests. Richter asked Officer Horn to address the Chair, not Roth. Officer Horn stated the loss of 8 Township Police Officers would cripple the Township’s Police Department, and would not be a wise decision.

Officer Robert Curtis, Director of the Youth Aid Division of the Township Police Department cited the Red Lake Minnesota shootings, and the Colombine Tragedy as being a possible mirror image to the Township due to the size, race, and financial similarities. Officer Curtis stated the proposed budget by the Finance Committee would “hand-cuff” the Police Department making them ineffective in protecting the children of the Township. Officer Curtis stated the children of our Township are its future, and implored Council to rethink their views on the proposed Budget.

Mr. Albert Kidd of 851 Darlington Avenue stated the Township spends money like “drunken sailors” and the Council “rubber stamps” many frivolous requests by the Business Administrator. Mr. Kidd stated the taxes have risen over the past few years because new revenue has been accumulated each year from new residences and corporations that are being built, and subsequently being taxed. Mr. Kidd asked Council to reduce the proposed Budget.

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March 23, 2005
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Officer Al Vallese, of 131 Miller Road, President of the Police Benevolence Association Local 143, stated the loss of 8 Township Police Officers to lower the Budget would severely impair the Township’s Police Department. Officer Vallese stated Richter made the comment with regard to the proposed budget, to Officer Mike Valandet, “Don’t worry - we are just making idle threats.” This comment concerned Officer Vallese as 8 Township Officer’s jobs were at stake.

Ms. Kathy Murray of 88 Bridle Path Lane said she had no idea that 8 Township Officer’s jobs were at stake. Ms. Murray stated she supported the Township Police Department with regards to the Budget. Ms. Murray stressed to Council that they cut the wasteful spending from the Budget, not the important aspects of the Township such as Police Officer’s jobs.

Mr. Carter Morris of 1051 Ash Drive stated this happened last year. Mr. Morris stated there was a tax hike in School, County and Township similar to this one last year. Mr. Morris stated all departments needed to sacrifice and cut their budgets, but not in the important areas.

Mr. Jim Gangale, representative of the Blue and White Collar Employees of the Township stated there were two budgets in front of Council: One to cut employees and services, and one not to. Mr.Gangale supports the Mayor’s budget not recommending the cutting of employees and services and urged Council to do the same.

Mr. Murray Runin, of 531 Cascade Court, suggested the sale of Township property earmarked for Township fields in order to lower the budget and increase the surplus. Mr. Runin stated the sale of these properties and subsequent return of Grant Money would generate over 6 Million Dollars for the Township. Mr. Runin urged Council to consider this option.

Ms. Janet Diaz of 19 Walsh Drive stated the Township needed to rethink their stand on the 8 Township Officer’s jobs that are at stake because this will also affect the Township Ambulance Department’s efficiency. Ms. Diaz stated if there is no Police help there will be less Ambulance service.

Mr. Curtis Franklin of 126 Grove Street stated our Township’s Police are on the job and the kind of safety the Township realizes due to our Police Department is invaluable. For a Township so close to New York City to be as safe as ours, Mr. Franklin urged Council to think before they sacrifice Police services.

Mr. Don Marks of 202 Van Winkle Lane stated he was very concerned over the recent articles in the paper about the Township budget. Mr. Marks feels these articles are scare

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March 23, 2005
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tactics and should be halted. Mr. Marks asked Council to be responsive to the needs of the Township Residents and Employees when contemplating this budget and to come to a compromise with the Mayor on this issue.

Mr. Peter Cassotis of 107 South Mahwah Road stated our Township was rated two years ago as one of the best in the State and now Council is considering cutting eight officers. Mr. Cassotis stated that would be a very bad idea.

Mr. Albert Kidd of 851 Darlington Avenue stated it costs the Township $5,000.00 per day to run the Library. Mr. Kidd felt this was an excessive amount.

Mr. Kidd stated the Township is only paying interest and not principal on debt. The Business Administrator and Mayor stated this was untrue.

On a motion by Kelly, seconded by Calandrillo, the meeting was closed to the public at 8:15PM. All in favor. Motion carried.

Richter asked Roth to give a synopsis of the meeting of the Finance Committee last evening. Roth stated, despite all the bad publicity and rumors, no decisions concerning the 2005 Budget have been made, or departments identified for staff reduction. Roth stated Council has looked at a range of alternatives concerning the 2005 Budget. Roth stated it would be irresponsible of this Council not to look at a range of different options concerning this Budget. Roth cautioned the public to disregard any rumor that differs from what he said tonight.

Roth stated the Mayor provided a recommendation that reflected a 34% increase in his Budget – not the tax rate. According to Roth, over time, some adjustments were made in the revenue side as opposed to the expense side; Administration concurred, and this turned up some additional funds. This resulted in a Budget Increase of 28% - not a Tax Increase. The Finance Committee felt this Budget was on the high side, and looked into alternatives ranging from a 7%, 6% and now 4% across the board cuts to the 23 departments where cuts could be made in the Mayor’s Budget. Roth stated although Salaries are 68% of the Budget every effort is being made by the entire Council to have a minimal impact on Township Employment.

Roth handed out a proposed 4% across the board Budget Reduction of the Mayor’s Proposal amassed by the Finance Committee for Council’s perusal. Roth gave a brief summary of this 4% Budget Reduction. Roth stressed that all 23 departments, save one at the request of the Mayor, received a modest increase over last year’s budget. The

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March 23, 2005
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departments that were adjusted have an astric next to them in the 4% Budget Reduction Proposal.

Kelly asked if Roth had the chance to review the Salary Step Program the Township Police Department uses. Roth said yes. Kelly asked if Roth was comfortable with the cuts made to the Police Department and how it will affect the Township Police Department taking into consideration this Salary Step Program. Roth stated it is not up to him how the Police Chief manages the finances of his Department. Roth also stated there will be high ranking officers retiring next year which will involve a large savings in the salary area of the Police Department.

Kelly stated he supported the concept of what the Financial Committee was trying to achieve; however, Kelly felt the process was lacking. At this point, Kelly felt it was too late to propose a plan of this degree. Kelly stated this plan should have been in place when Council had the opportunity to involve the Department Heads in the discussion. DiGiulio concurred.

DiGiulio stated percentages and numbers should not become more valuable then Township Residents, Employees, and Services. DiGiulio stated services cost money – that’s just a fact. DiGiulio stated specific jobs should be reevaluated at the time of an employee’s retirement in order to cut costs. DiGiulio stated our Township Employees are people that care about our Township and are also in many cases volunteers for the Fire and Ambulance Departments. DiGiulio stated these Employees are not just percentages and numbers and subsequently made a motion to accept the Mayor’s Proposed Budget with the Council’s original cuts and increases during the Budget Hearings.

Calandrillo stated she had been involved in 10 Budget Sessions over her past Council Terms and this by far had been the most tedious. Calandrillo stated rather then losing one Township Employee, she would give up her stipend for this year. Calandrillo made a motion to accept the Mayor’s Proposed Budget with the Council’s original cuts and increases during the Budget Hearings. Richter stated she would consider DiGiulio’s first and Calandrillo’s second after all Councilmembers had the opportunity to speak.

Alderisio stated the 4% proposal handed out by the Finance Committee would be impossible for the Police Department to operate their department on without cutting Township Officer’s jobs due to contractual salaries.

Paton stated each department was invited to present their Budget Requests to Council and the ensuing discussion would be taken under consideration by Council. It was Paton’s belief that nothing in these meetings would be cast in stone until Council met to make decisions after gathering with all the Township Departments.

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March 23, 2005
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Paton acknowledged Roth’s premise that it is not Council’s job to micromanage Township Departments. It was Council’s job to decide on the numbers that Administration would have to work within to make the Township Departments operate. Paton further stated that it was the Police Chief’s job to decide how his Department will operate within the budget – not Council’s, and Paton further stated there were other departments that were as equally concerned as the Police Department. Paton felt Council should discuss this more deeply prior to accepting any motions to agree on a Budget tonight.

Roth stated Council went through every department’s budget individually and a list of cuts was drawn up. The various Township Departments did not offer many areas with which to cut. The total of “offered” cuts was only $100,000.00. Roth stated this left the Finance Committee with no other option then to come up with some proposed cuts. Roth stated no one likes the idea of cuts – but in order to make Mahwah an affordable place for its elderly and younger residents to live, Department Budget Reductions needed to be seriously considered by the Council, or it would not be fair to these residents. Roth stated he would be willing to discuss this all night in order to come up with a fair budget for all Township Residents.

Richter stated she was not pleased with the Mayor’s Budget as originally presented. Richter stated there was and still is room for improvement. Richter further stated Council does not have the authority to tell Department Heads how to run their Departments – Council can only determine, through increases and decreases, the financial figures these departments will operate with. Richter does not feel that the various newspaper articles have been accurate, and stated that she and all Councilmembers needed to vote their individual beliefs with regards to the budget and what they think is best for this Township.

Richter further commented that she does not want to see any Township Employee lose their job and that was not her goal. Richter stated the Budget Process has gone on too long, the Township was now working on a Temporary Budget, and she believed she had gone as far as she could go in considering the various possibilities for this Budget.

Alderisio stated the Mayor’s proposal is only $71.00 more a year for a $350,000.00 house then the Finance Committee’s proposed 6% budget cuts, and Alderisio is not willing to lose Township Employees over this small amount of money.

DiGiulio thanked Roth for all his work; however, she noted that Roth did not list where the percentages or cuts would be coming from. DiGiulio reiterated her original motion to accept the Mayor’s Proposed Budget with the Council’s original cuts and increases during the Budget hearings, with no salary increase for the Fire Department due to Chief

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March 23, 2005
Page 7

Larkin’s denying the need, and the addition of the computer system, that she heard would be a Capital Item, as discussed and agreed upon at the Budget Meetings. Calandrillo seconded the motion. The Township Attorney suggested introducing this at the next Public Meeting.

Kelly asked if this included the increase of the collection rate at 96%. DiGiulio stated yes it does. Kelly was not comfortable with the Budget Process this year, and stressed the need to go back to the way the Budget was handled last year. Kelly supported DiGiulio’s motion. Straw Poll Vote: Alderisio, yes; Calandrillo, yes; DiGiulio, yes; Kelly, yes; Paton, no; Roth, no; Richter, no.

The Budget will be introduced most likely April 7, 2005. The Township Attorney cautioned Council that they would need 4 votes to pass this Budget. Richter also stated 5 votes would be needed to permit an increase to the Budget, and 4 votes for a decrease in the Budget. Richter stated 28 days after introduction there will be a public hearing on the Proposed Budget.

On a motion made by Calandrillo, seconded by Kelly, the meeting was adjourned at
9:04PM. All in favor. Motion carried.

Respectfully submitted,

Kathrine G. Coletta, RMC/CMC
Municipal Clerk


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