River Edge Discusses Budget Challenges and Financial Planning

In a recent River Edge Borough Council meeting, the main agenda was a discussion on the 2024 operational budget, which presented a complex financial picture marked by a 5.55% increase. The budget challenges faced by the municipality were outlined, with major drivers including increased costs in police salaries, employee health insurance, Social Security, landfill fees, and liability insurance. The council also discussed the anticipated bill from Hackensack Paramus for sewer charges and the separate bill for a portion of the town not covered by the Bergen County Utility Authority (BCUA), contributing to a total wastewater budget of approximately $1.6 million. A significant increase in legal services by $225,000 and other notable hikes in recycling costs and finance salaries prompted detailed exploration and debate among council members.

The council’s conversation frequently returned to the theme of transparency and education for the public on the components of the budget, especially regarding non-funded mandates and the implications of expenditure increases. The council emphasized conservative financial management and the importance of maintaining a healthy fund balance, while also grappling with the limitations imposed by state caps on levy and appropriations. The council approved an increase in anticipated interest earned on the cash management fund from $80,000 to $110,000, despite the volatile economic climate.

In terms of long-term financial planning, the council focused on the potential impact of debt on the budget in the coming years. The need for anticipating the budget impact of projects approved in 2021 that would require debt service payments was discussed, as well as the borough’s self-imposed debt policy to ensure sound financial decision-making. The council members highlighted the importance of steady budgeting to avoid sudden increases in debt and the application of conservative accounting policies to maintain fiscal stability.

Attention was given to the Historic Commission’s budget, which was kept flat at $4,750 for 2024, as they had not utilized their full allocation from the prior year, and any legal fees would be covered by the borough budget. The Borough Clerk’s budget and the Honors and Badges budget were also topics of discussion, with a focus on specific line items and the necessity for budget adjustments.

The council discussed the Finance Department’s budget, particularly addressing the conversion of a part-time position to full-time to address staffing challenges. They also reviewed overtime budgets and the rationale behind labor cost allocations. There was an examination of the shade tree budget, with questions raised about the requested amount for tree planting and whether it would cover all related expenses.

The debate on the necessity of increasing budgets for items such as membership dues and subscriptions, as well as the reasons behind the increase in wage costs for the construction enforcement section, was part of the wider discussion. The council members reviewed the Employee Assistance Program provided by Bergen County and noted increases in liability insurance and employee group health costs as factors driving the tax rate higher.

The council deliberated on utility costs, including telecommunications and landfill tipping fees, and the need to account for potential increases in these areas. They also touched upon emergency authorizations as a contingency measure for unforeseen financial needs and briefly discussed the implications of debt services on the budget.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Thomas Papaleo
City Council Officials:
Michelle Kaufman, Barry Benson, David Glass, Klodiana Malellari, Lissa Montisano-Koen, Indira Kinsella

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