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TAX HIKE, FURLOUGHS IN RED BANK BUDGET

stanley-sickelsBorough Administrator Stanley Sickels gave an overview of Red Bank’s budget Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In an effort to shrink its budget, Red Bank won’t pick up the cost of police overtime associated with the annual KaBoom! fireworks show this year, officials said Monday night.

They’re also looking at imposing 10-day furloughs for all borough government employees except crossing guards, leaving a vacant police captain’s job open and withholding raises from non-union employees.

Still, all that won’t enable them to hold the line on taxes.

As proposed Monday night, Red Bank’s $19.2 million spending plan will carry a 2.3 cent increase per $100 of assessed property value — from 46.2 cents in 2009 to 48.5 cents this year. The 2009 budget totaled $19.5 million.

That would add about $94 to the annual tax bill of the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $407,000.

But the spending plan “is still a work in progress,” says Administrator Stanley Sickels. And the real progress that needs to be made, he said, is with the two unions representing many of the borough’s employees, the Policeman’s Benevolent Association and Communications Workers of America.

Officials are suggesting 10-day furloughs for all workers except crossing guards, a move that’s estimated to save $302,000. But Sickels said the borough can’t impose furloughs on unionized employees. It can, however, impose layoffs, which aren’t desirable, Sickels, said.

“If the unions don’t agree to furloughs, that’ll be the next option,” he said.

In the budget rolled out last night, a $824,785 decrease in spending from last year anticipates the furloughs.

The borough has also pulled out from its usual $60,000 contribution, in the form of police overtime, to the annual fireworks show, and will save another $117,000 by not filling the vacancy created by the promotion of former Captain Steve McCarthy to police chief earlier this year. It’s also not giving raises to non-union employees.

Even with these actions, Sickels said the borough is facing “hurdles to overcome,” many of which have been well-documented the last couple of months.

For one, there’s the $517,000 cut in state aid. Insurance and pension costs are up $160,000. The borough surplus was reduced by $905,000. Sickels said those factors added together account for 8 percent of last year’s budget.

Then there are tax-exempt non-profits, representing 16 percent of the borough’s aggregate real estate value, demanding borough services, a bone that’s been picked on visibly by both local and state officials in recent months.

Mix them all together and you have what Mayor Pasquale Menna called a “tortuous process.”

“This is an extremely difficult year,” he said. “The budgets are, at every single level of state government and local government, going to be affected.”

Sickels said the borough will continue to negotiate furloughs and other cost-saving options with the unions. An agreement must be made before the council adopts the budget on May 10, he said.

If you want to learn all the finer points of the budget, or have a suggestion on how to improve it, officials are hosting a public session at 7p Wednesday at borough hall.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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