The Dumont Borough Council’s recent meeting featured debate, as council members approved a significant 2023 municipal budget amidst disagreements over capital improvement plans, police funding, rising debt, and a notable absence of the town’s mayor.
The council greenlit a municipal budget of approximately $28,679,000 for 2023, marking an increase of around $1.2 million from the previous year. Despite concerns about rising debt and over-budgeting, the council resolved to keep tax increases minimal, wary of escalating inflationary pressures. The projected tax rate increase of 1.3% equates to an average annual increase of $99 for municipal operations and $16 for the library.
The adopted budget saw personnel costs, comprising salaries, pensions, and health insurance, accounting for 49% of total spending. An eye-catching element in the budget was the allocation of $500,000 from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to fund a significant portion of the police budget. This sparked a lively discussion on the need to find an additional $500,000 from other sources once the ARP money runs out or cut the police force.
The meeting witnessed a spirited dialogue surrounding a bond ordinance for a series of ambitious capital improvements, worth an estimated $2,654,000. These include plans to upgrade Memorial Park with new amenities, introduce communication and signal systems for the police, emergency management, and fire department, and major road improvements. However, doubts were cast over the ambitious capital improvement plans, with Councilwoman Mary expressing concerns about investments in buildings the borough does not own.
The town’s budget was further strained by a short-term jump in payroll costs of $417,000, partially due to the addition of an interim administrator’s salary. Other budget pressures include rising costs of water and recycling, largely due to increasing dumping fees. A particular bone of contention was the cost overrun of the Dixon Homestead ADA improvements, mainly due to asbestos mitigation.
Among the notable developments, the council also discussed a filming project involving Gordon Ramsay’s show, termed as successful, and collaborative efforts between the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Dumont-Shadetree Commission.
While the council tackled numerous fiscal issues, the absence of the mayor remained a sore point. Several citizens voiced concerns over the mayor’s consistent absenteeism, prompting discussions about council bylaws regarding attendance and potential repercussions. One resident even demanded a vote of no confidence and called for his resignation, with others echoing these sentiments.
The meeting concluded with Councilman Tom Kelly expressing gratitude to the finance committee, which has been managing financial matters collectively, alongside their auditor, during the continued vacancy of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position. With applications closed and the interviewing process about to begin, Dumont’s residents will be watching closely to see how their new CFO will handle the town’s financial challenges in the coming year.