Borough Resolves Nearly $1M Projected 2013 Shortfall
The borough manager is confident that the original budget shortfall for next year has been closed, but that doesn't mean the town won't be facing other financial obstacles.
At a work session in early April, borough manager Tom Metzler announced that Fair Lawn had reached a financial tipping point and pressed council for guidance in addressing the town's $900,000 shortfall for the coming year's budget.
"There’s only three ways to offset that number without it having a tremendous impact," Metzler said gloomily, before asking council whether it preferred to increase revenues via adding more user fees (taxation), cutting services or further depleting the surplus.
"None of the options are good ones," he said.
Three months later, through a combination of revenues raised from existing fees and a fruitful FEMA reimbursement, the shortfall has been plugged.
"We feel confident that the initial concerns that we had -- if everything stays on track -- we’ve addressed that issue," said Metzler, who noted the borough expects to fill the 2013 budget hole with a combination of municipal court revenues, third-party ambulance billing fees, funds from a water meter service charge increase enacted this spring and FEMA reimbursements from last year's storms.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t still other budget concerns, however.
The borough recently learned that it must convert at least six of its part-time positions in the recycling department to full-time positions, beginning Jan. 1.
Since 2010, the borough has been cycling through part-timers in the recycling department to save on the costs associated with employing full-time workers.
"They would hire them for six months, lay them off for two weeks and re-hire them – the ones that were any good," Metzler said. "If you weren’t cutting it, they would get rid of you and bring somebody else in."
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission recently advised the town that because the recycling positions were being refilled on a continual basis they did not technically constitute a part-time position and must be filled by a full-timer at an added cost to the borough.
"Part of that cost will be offset by the fact that the part-timers that we have, obviously we’re paying them something, but it’s less than they would be making full time," said Metzler, who won't know the actual impact of the new hires until entry-level laborer salaries are set in the borough's upcoming labor negotiations with employees.
Because the town is under a council-imposed hiring freeze, Metzler, who otherwise has the ultimate say in hiring and promoting borough employees, must first receive council approval to do so.