The South Orange Board of Trustees passed the 2012 budget tonight by a vote of 4-1. Trustee Goldberg voted no; Trustee Gould was absent.
The tax levy increase comes to 1.75%, which translates into a tax increase on the average assessed home ($460,274) of $83.34. "I think this is about as good as we can expect," said Village Administrator Barry Lewis. He noted what he termed the "trend" of the Village controlling tax increases in last few years, following several years where they went up sharply. He attributed that to a combination of sharing services with Maplewood, the use of outsourcing and other cost-saving methods. Lewis said the Village hoped to continue to bring more tax stability to residents in future years.
During the public comment portion, no one wished to speak about anything to do with the budget. But around half a dozen Maplewood residents -- including a 10-year-old South Mountain Elementary School student who spoke at the podium and presented a petition -- issued an impassioned plea to trustees to allow the roughly 10% of South Mountain students who reside in Maplewood to purchase guest passes to the South Orange pool. "This has been an extremely long and difficult and frustrating process," said Lisa Fellen, who said she and other parents had been engaged in numerous conversations with the Recreation Committee about the issue over a long period of time. "It is a policy issue not a legal issue," she said.
The committee apologized for any miscommunications between the families and the recreation committee. Village President Alex Torpey informed the residents that the issue will be on the agenda for the next Recreation Committee meeting on 6/28 and at the next Trustee meeting on 6/25.
VP Torpey expressed his disappointment with the board's failure to pass an ordinance regarding the charter review that would change trustee and Village President titles and provide them with stipends. The board voted on an amended version of the charter that excluded the title changes and stipends. Trustee Rosner joined with Trustee Goldberg to vote yes on this version, but it failed to be adopted by 3-2 on second reading. In effect, this now enables the board to start over and begin to discuss the entire issue from scratch.
As for the renovation of Village Hall, Trustee Rosner voiced strong frustration with the slow pace of the bidding process. The Board is in discussions with Seton Hall University about moving into a building it owns; the other option is to move into trailers in the interim.
Trustee Goldberg asked Village Counsel Steven Rother for a public update on the issue of the lawsuit the Village has against East Orange Water Company. Rother said that South Orange is trying to sever its lawsuit from the suit that Newark has against the company, but in the meantime the issue seems to be at an impasse.
In other business:
Trustees announced that the Concert Series returned to the Village this past weekend and will continue through the summer months on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Sloan Street plaza and in Spiotta Park. The series this year is sponsored by Farmers Insurance.
The event is set for Saturday, June 16 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The returns on Wednesday, June 27 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
will begin for all residents on July 1.