A look at issues facing the City of Englewood. Michael W. Curley, Jr./NorthJersey.com
(Photo: Kevin J. Riley/Special to NorthJersey.com)
ENGLEWOOD — Mayor Frank Huttle is calling on the city to enact immediate spending cuts to prevent this year’s municipal budget from costing the owner of an average home an additional $382 in property taxes.
The proposed budget, outlined in a memo by City Manager Ed Hynes, calls for a 7.4 percent tax increase to support a $66 million budget that is facing a $1.1 million, or nearly 10 percent, revenue drop from last year. The deficit is slightly less than what the city spent on its Parks and Recreation Department last year.
“Englewood taxpayers simply cannot afford another year of higher property taxes thanks to reckless spending,” Huttle wrote in a statement. “It’s time for the city to reduce spending and increase municipal revenue by encouraging a responsible economic growth plan in accordance with the Master Plan that was adopted in 2014.”
The plan, a blueprint for development and activities in the city, envisions Englewood as an arts and cultural center with a mixed-use, walkable downtown and improved mass-transit options. It includes the reuse or redevelopment of the Liberty and Lincoln schools.
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The city was counting on the site of Lincoln School, torn down in 2016 to make way for a five-story apartment building, to contribute $600,000 in payment-in-lieu-of-taxes revenue this year, but that will not happen, Hynes said. The certificate of occupancy for the 185-unit building will instead be issued next year.
Hynes also attributed the loss of revenue to a 30 percent decline in court revenue and said the monthlong closure of the ice rink at Mackay Park in November due to broken cooling equipment cost the city $60,000.
Spending is set to rise by 4.5 percent this year, largely due to state-mandated increases in pension payments, he said. The city will likely have to raise $1 million to pay for upcoming retirements.
If adopted, the proposed budget would raise taxes by $382 on a home assessed at the city average of $461,700.
The increase is comparable to last year’s, when taxes rose by 6.3 percent. The mayor also opposed that city budget.
Huttle said this year’s proposed tax hike will inflict more pain on property owners already grappling with the new federal tax law, which caps at $10,000 the amount in state and local taxes that homeowners can deduct on their federal income tax returns.
He urged the City Council to create a five-year budget plan and a capital budgeting plan to help the city manage its finances.
“Unless the city immediately changes course and adopts a responsible economic growth plan along with spending cuts, our government is on a collision course to a financial crisis,” Huttle wrote.
Council President Wayne Hamer said the council is not satisfied with the 7.4 percent tax increase and will be meeting with individual departments over the next few months to chip away at spending.
"We’ve got work to do," Hamer said.
Budget meetings are scheduled for Feb. 21, March 7, March 14, March 21, March 28, April 11 and April 13 and will include workshops with the Public Works, Police, Fire and Library departments.