Council OKs Flat Budget, Tax Rate Rises


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The Verona Town Council approved the township’s 2012 budget on Monday night, May 7,  after the budget was revised downward to show no increase from 2011. But while the new budget is flat, its impact on residents may not be: Verona’s 2012 tax rate will rise from 2011.

The vote on the budget was 3 to 2, with Council members Frank Sapienza, Bob Manley and Jay Sniatkowski in approval and Michael Nochimson and Kevin Ryan against. Nochimson and Ryan also voted against the 2011 budget, which was submitted for a vote just after they were elected to the Council. “Residents asked for a flat budget and we got it,” said Sniatkowski. Nochimson was less sanguine. “People are tired of tax increases, they want us to hold the line,” he said.

The 2012 budget will mean an increase in the tax rate to 7.20 from 6.94 last year. The assessed value of properties in town has fallen sharply during the recession and, when ratables fall it can push tax rates higher. How the tax rate rise will affect you will depend on what has happened to the assessed value of your house: There have been rolling reassessments since Verona completed its revaluation.

Council members and Town Manager Joe Martin took pains at several points during the meeting to remind those present that only 25% of the municipal budget is determined by town government spending. The largest share–55% is determined by the Board of Education budget–with the rest going to Essex County and the state. The budget for Verona’s public schools is going up 2.37% after the BOE was allowed to exceed the state’s 2% spending cap.

But those realities fell on mostly deaf ears. Many of the residents who came to the podium when the meeting was opened for public comment wanted to know why Verona carries such a large surplus from year to year. Martin insisted that the surplus, again around $2 million, is needed to win a favorable opinion of the town’s financial health from bond rating agencies, and to prevent the wide swings in tax levies that used to be part of Verona’s past.

That did not appease Councilman Ryan. “When you keep building in allocations this style of budgeting does not promote fiscal discipline.”

Discipline may be even more needed in the future. Martin had opened the Monday meeting by noting that pension costs will rise $75,000  in the 2013 budget and reminded those present that the contracts for both municipal and police employees are due to expire on Dec. 31, 2013. Martin confirmed that negotiations on those contracts have already begun, but would not comment on where things stand.

CORECTION: The No votes on the 2011 budget were cast by Kevin Ryan and outgoing Council member Teena Schwartz. Ryan was elected to the Council last year with Michael Nochimson but was sworn in in time for the budget vote because he was filling the unexpired term of Ken McKenna. Nochimson was not sworn in until after the budget vote.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


  1. Virginia

    You are correct in noting the 2011 Municipal budget also passed by a 3 to 2 vote but one of the negative votes, in addition to mine, was cast by the outgoing mayor Tina Schwartz.


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