In a recent Englewood Cliffs Borough Council meeting, Mayor Mario M. Kranjac and council members engaged in a heated debate over the 2023 municipal budget, legal fees, and the perceived corruption in New Jersey’s governance system. The discussion, punctuated by interruptions and raised voices, saw the mayor accusing the council and others of being part of a “cabal” misusing funds and failing the borough.
Mayor Kranjac vehemently criticized the handling of legal fees, urging the council to reject the budget due to what he viewed as excessive allocations for such fees. He cited specific cases involving individuals named Atkins, Judge Farrington, Ms. Duffy, and Ms. Bell, alleging a double standard in the justice system and accusing the council of failing to communicate with him on matters involving his name. The mayor also expressed frustration over the handling of an OPRA request, which had led to legal complications and fees.
In response, some council members pointed to the previous administration’s failure to properly address certain responsibilities, contributing to the current issues. The discussion revealed a contentious point regarding a proposal to reduce taxes by $500,000, sparking debates on whether to source this amount from the legal budget or the surplus. Despite warnings from the borough’s auditor about potential fiscal health issues, the council passed an amendment to reduce the legal line by $199,000 and take $301,000 from the surplus.
The debate also touched upon the mayor’s role in the budget adoption process, with a representative citing statute 48:4-10, emphasizing that the mayor indeed has a role in the voting process, having the power to break a 3-3 tie. This seemed to surprise Mayor Kranjac, who believed he did not have a vote based on past information. The representative insisted on the statute’s stipulation, emphasizing the mayor’s role in the voting process.
The Director of Local Government Services mandated the adoption of the budget by September 21st, warning of a $25 per day fine for each council member failing to adopt the budget. The mayor viewed this directive as another example of New Jersey’s flawed system. The representative warned of financial repercussions for the borough, including potential increases in costs for services such as garbage collection and the loss of additional revenue from added assessments for 2023 if the budget was not promptly adopted.
The council also discussed a motion to furlough some borough attorneys to further reduce expenses, which led to another round of intense discussion. The motion was eventually tabled, reflecting divisions over how to manage the borough’s legal expenses and budgetary concerns.
In other matters, a representative from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police presented the Englewood Cliffs Police Department with its fourth re-accreditation certificate, a rare feat attained by less than 8% of eligible agencies in New Jersey, praising the department for its commitment to best practices and professionalism.
Later in the meeting, the council discussed various maintenance and cleanliness issues, including the state of parks and road safety. Concerns were raised over the condition of the parks, with one member stating they had seen “better parks in the poorest section of New York.” The council emphasized the need for better coordination between the police and the superintendent to address potential dangers in the town.
The meeting also saw discussions on the use of police and fire department vehicles, with concerns raised about their capacity to carry equipment and their use in high-speed pursuits. The mayor emphasized his role in public safety and expressed frustration about not being informed promptly about certain incidents in the community.
Towards the end of the meeting, the council addressed disruptions caused by utility work and urged residents to be patient, emphasizing the necessity of the ongoing projects. The council settled on a staggered pay increase over four years in a new contract with the United Service Workers Local and discussed a new salary ordinance to attract qualified candidates.