The recent Bergenfield Borough Council meeting featured vital updates on infrastructure projects and ordinances. However, the meeting’s focal point became the financial decisions related to the Municipal Budget of 2023, a topic that ignited considerable debate and public comments.
Borough Engineer Bob Klein discussed the ongoing sidewalk replacement and road improvement projects, bringing the council’s attention to associated factors like compliance rate, resident costs, and public communication about these endeavors. Meanwhile, the council decided to table Ordinance 23-2612 for further review, an initiative aimed at amending the stormwater management chapter of the borough code.
In contrast, Ordinance 23-2616, which authorized public improvements and a $3,302,000 appropriation for equipment acquisition, was adopted. Notably, this decision was influenced by the cautionary voice of resident Barry Doll. Doll expressed concern about the bond’s financial implications, urging the council to be mindful of potential future impacts. His intervention served as a reminder to the council to balance immediate infrastructural needs with long-term financial sustainability.
Councilperson Rivera explained that the budget was crafted following extensive consultations with department heads about their service needs and costs. In response to Barry Doll’s inquiries about budget clarity and the council’s concerns, Rivera emphasized the budget’s grounding in departmental needs and services.
Borough Administrator Gallo offered further insight into the budget’s development process. Highlighting the Finance Committee’s comprehensive expense review, he pointed to the cost increases in areas like fuel and parts that led to a year-over-year spike. The Committee had diligently reallocated funds from one line item to another based on usage, as in the case of the road salt budget, which had been diverted due to a lack of snow.
Councilperson Kornbluth added that while trying to minimize the budget increase’s impact on residents, the council faced uncontrollable cost factors such as pensions and insurance. She mentioned that the council strived to run the Borough effectively despite these hurdles. Such discussions illuminated the challenging nature of municipal budgeting, balancing fiscal responsibility with public service needs.
While councilmember provided details on how the budget was developed, none addressed the critique that the public was not engaged in the budget discussions.