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Surprise Request for Cuts Prolongs Municipal Budget Debate

Councilman Kurt Peluso proposed making substantial cuts to this year's budget in an attempt to lessen the burden on taxpayers.

An unexpected request by councilman Kurt Peluso to trim the budget as much as $1.5 million left borough council unable to reach a consensus Monday at what was supposed to the budget wrap-up session. 

“If a $1.5 million [reduction] is too high, maybe we can do half-a-million,” said Peluso, who explained he’d like to see the proposed $128.10 annual municipal tax increase per average household cut in half. “Any little cut we can make to the taxpayers I’m sure would be appreciated.”

Peluso and councilwoman Lisa Swain voted not to proceed with the manager’s budget, opting to review the savings that could be realized by furloughs and/or layoffs to borough employees.

Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski, who abstained from voting on the budget, asked that borough manager Tom Metzler return to council with recommendations on where to cut spending.

“Realistically, the only way we’re going to be able to take down the salary and wage line this year is to eliminate services,” Trawinski said. “We ought to ask the manager…what his recommendation would be in terms of priorities that he thinks the council should consider eliminating.” 

Metzler said he’d recommend where to cut if provided with a target amount to cut, but advised that it would in all likelihood result in a permanent reduction in services.

“I just don’t think you’re going to get there by nickeling and diming,” he said. “I just don’t see us getting there without just biting the bullet and doing it, laying people off if that’s what’s necessary.”

Other than Peluso asking chief financial officer Karen Palermo to review the potential savings from furloughs and layoffs, none of the council members proposed a plan for what they would consider cutting.

During the , Metzler asked that council try to overcome its recent history of party-line voting and approach the budget process as a collective unit.

"If the public is going to buy into the urgency, you’ve got to do it united," he said at the time. "You can’t do it divided."

While Peluso's suggestion to make a sizeable budget cut conforms with Metzler's earlier request that council act now to make up , the last minute nature of it rubbed some council members the wrong way.

"I wish you had asked sooner," said Mayor Jeanne Baratta, who along with Deputy Mayor John Cosgrove voted for the presented manager's budget Monday. "We’re kind of at crunch time right now." 

"We came here tonight to get this done," Cosgrove said. "I'm prepared to vote on it now."

Fair Lawn Republican Club president Daniel Dunay expressed concerns over Peluso and Swain's objections to the presented budget in a statement.

"It's too bad that we again have an instance of two members of the council creating a political divide without any clear perspective on what they would do differently," he said. "Through all of the many budget sessions with borough management, not once did Councilman Peluso ask about furloughs or other budget cuts. Now, at the eleventh hour, with all budget sessions done, he and Councilwoman Swain have objected."

Peluso and Swain requested that two versions of the budget be presented at next Tuesday's council meeting when it's formally introduced -- one with cuts/furloughs and one without.

BellairBerdan April 18, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Frank, I'm sorry but I did point you to read my original comment of what my opinion was. Could you please explain why you feel it is wrong to save the people of Fair Lawn money, cover the expected shortfall, or to want to be informed of all the possible options before making a vote? That's all Peluso asked. That's a responsible councilman. Are you saying there is a time limit on responsibility?
Frank Sina April 18, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Hey BellairBerdan! 1) I did read your comments at 12:50... and then I asked you what staff and departments are you cool with cutting, laying off, giving furloughs to in Fair Lawn 2)There is nothing wrong with trying to save me and other people in this town money. I'm curious as to why months after sitting in a budget presentation, and not once in the months did he mention any of this until the very last moment. He was and has been well informed about this more then you and I are for months now. 3) I don't feel there is a time limit on responsibility...that is why Dan and Brent went to the last council meeting and asked the previous Mayor questions about her no vote and lack of taking responsibility.
BellairBerdan April 18, 2012 at 11:13 AM
Frank, if we're in agreement, what's your problem? Let's remember that Coles was also in the group with Brent and Dan in that meeting. I know, why don't 7 of you this time go to the next meeting and all waste time by asking the same question. I'll bet you'll get into Patch! Now please feel free to answer TP's questions, unless of course you are like Brent and only demand answers of people and not give any of your own.
re: the goon squad April 18, 2012 at 12:37 PM
this thread is pretty funny: BB claims the council majority's groupies (dunay, pohlman, sina) gang up on people- and they react by all 3 of them (plus sina's borther) arguing back and forth with him all day. the funniest thing is thier big complaint is they are demanding answers from the dems: however when someone asked pohlman his qualifications to be on the planning board he refused to answer. and in this thread TP asks frank sina to answer a simple question and he makes some lame excuse that he wont answer it because of some issue he has with BB. what a joke word of advice dunay, pohlman, and sina: i assume by your involvement the 3 of you plan to be involved w/ local politics in the future. i do not vote on party lines just who i think is best for the job. if any of the 3 of you ever run for an elected official i will think back to the immature / hypocritical arguements you posetd on this site and probably not vote for you. if you do aspire to one day be an elected official be careful what you write on these sites- usually when two sides argue back and forth online they both end up looking like idiots.
Tony Sina April 18, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Mr. BB, I was at the meeting you are referring to in your previous comment. During the time for public comments, the council had so few participants that one Fair Lawn resident was allowed to go well over her allotted time; after a couple of other residents were given the floor, she was then allowed to speak a second time. Now, I am not taking issue with her being allowed to speak her mind, nor do I take issue with the feelings and thoughts she expressed. (In fact, I would hope we are in agreement that every resident in FL should be afforded the opportunity to speak their mind on any issue before the council.) I guess what I take issue with is your characterization that someone was "wasting time" by voicing their thoughts and feelings before the council. Anyone who sees your numerous comments on Patch is well-aware of your feelings and leanings. And fortunately, there is a forum where you are free to express them in your own way. Mr. Dunay and Mr. Pohlman chose to express themselves in the same way that any FL resident can. You may not agree with it, but characterizing it as a waste of time seems to not gel with the reality of the situation or the level of discourse we as members of the community should try to reach.
blazin101 April 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Listen up people! The comments here are about a bunch of baby's that want there name on a wall and there face in the paper. The council has no clue how this town runs! Not one of them have ever went to each department and see what relly goes on and see how things run. Money is going everywhere but the rite place. Nobody cares and layoffs just put more people on unemployment and more of a strain on the government. This town once again is a joke. I hope all the waste council members and mayors get out of there chairs and see what really happens. It all may look good on paper but no of it works. They are stupid!
Frank Sina April 18, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Good Morning BellairBerdan! 1) Part of my question was about what staff and departments are you cool with cutting, laying off, giving furloughs to in Fair Lawn. 2) No need to tell me who was there in the audience...I was there. 3) It's never a waste of time to be active, step away from the computer and go to council meeting to ask are elected officials questions. 4) I told Thomas Paine I would be more then happy to answer his questions as soon as I heard from you on my question about what staff and departments you are okay with cutting, laying off, or giving furloughs to in Fair Lawn.
Tony Sina April 18, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Mr. BB, with regard to your insistence that Mr. Pohlman refuses to answer your questions...As an outsider looking in, you asked a question which I thought was rhetorical. Asking someone how many false statements a public official can make seems to me like asking how many people you are allowed to murder. The answer is obviously zero. I can't speak for anyone else, but if you need the answer displayed, a public official shouldn't lie. You are correct. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems the question you posed became an important talking point only after Mr. Pohlman was waiting for you to list the false statements that prompted you to say that too many have been made by the council members. In fact, the question you posed came up several times instead of you listing the false statements made by council members. The list that you eventually did provide didn't exactly convince anyone that you really meant to say "too many [false] statements" and be taken seriously. I'm sure Mr. Pohlman and Mr. My Brother don't need any help defending themselves, but as an observer to the unfolding drama that is Fair Lawn Patch, I think it's important to point out that I'm looking at the responses you post to questions asked of you. More often than not your answer takes the form of "Why won't you answer the question?"
Frank Sina April 18, 2012 at 01:23 PM
To Clarify you only named really the Assistant Borough Manager's salary or position being gone. Could you be more specific...Councilman Peluso is talking $500,000-$1,500,000.
Tony Sina April 18, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Mr. BB, (sorry if I seem like I'm singling you out, but you do post an awful lot) I know your question regarding a time limit on responsibility was posed to my brother, but I have an opinion on the matter, and if you wouldn't mind some more wind in long-form... Much like your question on whether or not people should lie, this question seems rhetorical in nature. However, let me say that people should always be responsible. Full disclosure: I voted for Mr. Peluso. I knew him from high school, I knew him to be a decent guy, and he's in my peer group. All good things for a candidate after my vote. As reflected in both the article's title and the comments of numerous fellow Patchers, the problem is these objections on the budget were raised after numerous months of what I assume was time set aside to work on the budget. If I understand the facts correctly, this wasn't the first time they were to discuss work on the budget, this was one of the last times (if not the last time) before setting much of it in stone, as it were. In my TV-addled mind, the best comparison I can come up with is the boardroom scenes on The Apprentice. A player on a losing team only raises concerns against the Project Manager in the boardroom after they lose the task. More often than not, had the concerns come up during the task, they might have won. I don't want to think that Mr. Peluso is voting along party lines, but his last two big votes do concern me as someone who chose him as my representative.
The Groupies April 18, 2012 at 02:43 PM
this thread is pretty funny: BB claims the council majority's groupies (dunay, pohlman, sina) gang up on people- and they react by all 3 of them (plus sina's borther) arguing back and forth with him all day. the funniest thing is thier big complaint is they are demanding answers from the dems: however when someone asked pohlman his qualifications to be on the planning board he refused to answer. and in this thread TP asks frank sina to answer a simple question and he makes some lame excuse that he wont answer it because of some issue he has with BB. what a joke word of advice dunay, pohlman, and sina: i assume by your involvement the 3 of you plan to be involved w/ local politics in the future. i do not vote on party lines just who i think is best for the job. if any of the 3 of you ever run for an elected official i will think back to the immature / hypocritical arguements you posetd on this site and probably not vote for you. if you do aspire to one day be an elected official be careful what you write on these sites- usually when two sides argue back and forth online they both end up looking like idiots.
Brent Pohlman April 18, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Hi Groupies, You might not know this but while republicans identify themselves when they post there are a number of active democrats at the county and local level that troll this site with multiple fake names. As a point of information I have told BB on numerous occasions that I would gladly discuss my qualifications and in fact BB could even get my resume that is on file with the town. If you or any other concerned citizen would like to know my qualifications, you can review my resume, contact me though e-mail or come to a meeting and ask me. I would hold myself to the same standard that I hold the councilmembers, which is to respond to respectful questions in a public setting. I just will not engage political operatives for the sake of engaging them on this website. I was a little disappointed by your comment of immature/hypocritical comments as I am sure if you review my posts you will see neither. I will certainly hold elected officials accountable, but it will always be based on facts and in a respectful manner. As an example of same you might see that BB has made comments about my integrity, despite not knowing me at all, and of course I have not responded in kind. If you would like to contact me further please do not hesitate to e-mail me at brent.pohlman@gmail.com.
Chris Antonelli April 18, 2012 at 03:23 PM
So, the person called "The Groupies" is calling Dunay, Pohlman and Sina (actual people) immature?
The Groupies April 18, 2012 at 03:44 PM
first off BB's comments do not represent mine, i do not share his ideals and i think he presents his arguements poorly. i used the term immature because you guys sound immature arguing back and forth with BB all day. i wonder why you can write paragraphs about why you wont answer a question but you cant write one simple sentence on your qualifications to be on the planning board. "i took classes in town planning" or "i have spent time working with buliding inspectors" or " i have knowledge in construction and engineering" or "i helped cosgrove campaign so they gave me this position". these are all simple answer you could use instead of skating around the question. if you feel you deserved this position i dont see why you wouldnt gladly share your qualifications
LENNY April 18, 2012 at 03:44 PM
LET US ALL CUT THE BULL, WHILE EACH PARTY GOES AT EACH OTHER OUR TOWN IS GOING DOWN THE ROAD TO NO RETURN. THE PLAYERS CHANGE EACH ELECTION BUT THE GAME IS THE SAME. ZAK WHAT ABOUT THE FOLLOW UP WITH THE BORD OF EDUCATION ON HOW THE STAFF THAT TAKES CARE OF CLEANING OUR SCHOOLS AND SO MANY OTHER DUTIES WHERE TOLD THEIR JOBS WHERE BEING CONTRACTED OUT. WAS PATCH THE WAY THEY FOUND OUT? HAS OUR SUPIT OF SCHOOLS TALKED TO THE PEOPLE?
Brent Pohlman April 18, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Mr./Mrs. Groupies, you have my e-mail address, my resume is on file with the town and I will answer any questions at meeting. I'm making myself very available. If fact, you can e-mail me and I will give you my phone number but for obvious reasons I do not want to post it on this site.
The Groupies April 18, 2012 at 04:00 PM
and i stand by my hypocritical statement.... you guys want your questions answered but wont answer anyone elses simple questions when peluso brought up trawinski and baratta holding dual posistion being a conflict of interest us residents never got an answer from them on why it would not be. and when trawinski cant vote on an important issue like town budget it appears they didnt respond to peluso because he was right pohlman, dunay, sina- do you think its ok for one of our elected officials (who is supposed to represent the people who voted for him) not to be able to vote on such an important issue? do you see any conflict of interest now?
Brent Pohlman April 18, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Mr./Mrs. Groupies, As you may recall from only a few minutes ago, I said I expect the council to respond to questions posed to them in a public meeting and I would do same. I certainly do not think I am a hypocrite for not wanted to respond to an anonymous political operative on a community website. Now honestly I don't read all of these comments so I didn't see that one before, but the premise of the point seems flawed. Granted I am not an expert on Roberts Rules of Order, however I believe that if a conflict exists, a councilmember must recuse themself, because in some instances abstaining can affect the vote so the member must be completely removed. I don't think that Councilman Trawinski ever said that he couldn't vote on the budget, but I wasn't there I only know what was reported. It seems though that he abstained and then asked the Borough Manager to come back with additional budget reduction suggestions. However, I don't know if there is a conflict and it would seem to me that would be a good question to ask during public comment.
Tommy P April 18, 2012 at 04:18 PM
re #4, Why are you so afraid? Why are you hiding behind the fact that Ms BB won't answer your question.
Tommy P April 18, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Brent, I don't think anyone would confused me with a Democrat. I have been a life long Republican and as one of the top 5 posters on the Fair Lawn Patch, its clear that I am a Republican, just not a partisan hack. We all have a right to our opinion, and in an open forum like this one, we can all express them and challenge each other. I have often disagreed with BellairBerdan, but what does it matter if its really Lisa Swain, Kurt Peluso, or your father. Who ever it is, they obviously have a strong interest in Fair Lawn, even if usually wrong.
Brent Pohlman April 18, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Mr. Paine, everyone is entitled to their point of view and opinion, even someone like bb who I disagree with on most issues although I suspect there are some things we agree on. Just as you and other have the right to be anmonomous I have the right to decide who I will respond to. I think citizens of fair lawn have the right to know about appointed officials qualifications, but I don't know if bb or any other the other anmomomus dem commentators are even fair lawn residents or a bcdo hack or some hack political consultant. I certinatly have nothing to hide as I am willing to make myself available in many different forums. I can assure you that I you e mail me I will not disclose or distribute your e mail address to anyone
BellairBerdan April 18, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Wow Brent "there are a number of active democrats at the county and local level that troll this site with multiple fake names" talk about inflammatory statements. "Do you have any sourced, factual information to support your claims"? "I would think one would have a sound basis for such an inflammatory comment" I think you're doing well just arguing with yourself now. BTW Brent, I am a Democrat but I have never been a political operative for neither the local, county nor national party. I am one of the REAL concerned citizens.
Brent Pohlman April 18, 2012 at 05:12 PM
BB, I don't think that is inflammatory at all. There is nothing wrong with county and local political operatives commenting. I was just pointing out that it happens. As far as how I know, well you know the old saying about loose lips.
Zak Koeske April 18, 2012 at 05:20 PM
@Lenny - I've been trying to get an interview with the superintendent since the day that decision was made public, without any success. There's a board of ed meeting tomorrow. I will be there and hope to have an answer for you afterward.
BellairBerdan April 18, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Brent, "Do you have any sourced, factual information to support your claims"? "I get it, you flew off the handle with some rhetoric and there aren’t any facts to support it. Just admit same."
Stuart Pace April 18, 2012 at 07:36 PM
go to the meetings and find out Lenny.
LENNY April 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM
thank you zak if my meeting at work gets out will try to get their also. sounds like if you dont answer it will go away move on his part. it takes a long time to gain respect and a short time to lose it.
Ebba Wiselius April 19, 2012 at 08:48 PM
The Fair Lawn Community News recently printed an article about last Tuesday's meeting (4/10). Non-biased, for all those interested. Page 2.
Harry June 05, 2012 at 03:40 PM
You are correct Stuart. I have sat in on negotiations and you can talk about certain things for weeks and nobody is near agreement,you take a break and 2 or 3 people have a privatr chat and a deal is struck in 5 minutes.It is the way things work. Everone is happy and everyone goes to workMaybe the unions lose some money or some other perk but at least you have a job!!
Harry July 10, 2012 at 04:54 AM
I agree with you,Go Figure. And the perfect place to start is with the council. No salary or benefits. Their salaries are $5,000.00 per year and the benefits are $30,000.00 per year. This is the only part time job I ever saw getting benefits. Isn't this why businesses like part timers? So they don't have to pay benefits?

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