Mayor Pasquale Menna ponders the borough’s future on Monday night as he discussed possible cuts in state aid. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Pairing the word ‘doomsday’ with ‘budget’ doesn’t exactly evoke a warm fuzzy feeling, but Red Bank officials are prepared to put them together if the state’s new governor, Chris Christie, runs a scythe through state aid this budget season, as he’s all but promised.
Because about 16 percent, or roughly $320 million, of Red Bank’s assessed value consists of non-profits meaning the borough doesn’t collect taxes from those groups but still has to provide necessary services to them a major loss, like 25 percent as Christie has proposed, would be crippling, said councilman Michael DuPont.
That’s why he asked the council to get on board with a message to Trenton urging state officials to recognize Red Bank’s unique situation and be kind with its cuts.
“I think the state needs to understand this is a hardship,” DuPont said.
Mayor Pasquale Menna said other towns, including New Brunswick and Montclair, are in the same situation.
“Many of us, not just in Red Bank, are banging our heads with state officials to no avail,” he said. He added, however, that he’s optimistic for progress this year after several meetings with new administration personnel explaining the situation.
The budget process in Red Bank is going to be hard enough even if the borough gets a solid chunk of state aid, town officials have said.
The council has asked that each department head cut 15 percent from their respective bottom lines. And if the borough gets its state aid hacked, then that’s when the “doomsday budget” takes effect. That pretty much translates to what it connotes: layoffs and a rollback of services. That’s a move the council doesn’t want to make, considering it has touted its fiscal responsibility without having to compromise the aforementioned.
“Unfortunately Trenton hasn’t been able to do what we’ve done,” DuPont said.
DuPont and Menna said that a resolution addressing their concerns should be ready by the council’s next meeting in February with the hope that this time somebody will listen and Red Bank’s share of state aid will be enough to fill the gaps.
“Rather than cut it, increase it or stay the same,” DuPont said, “but don’t cut it.”