Council Adopts USR Budget Without Presenting it to the Citizen Taxpayers
The council voted to approve the 2023 USR Municipal Budget. The budget and its details were not presented by the council to the citizens present at the meeting or attending online via Zoom prior to the vote. It must be asked why this governing body does not choose to be straightforward and transparent in presenting its financial plans to the voting public attending the meeting. While the budget was posted on the borough’s USRTODAY.ORG website, it should also be formally presented to the citizen taxpayers of the borough willing to attend the meetings physically or virtually via Zoom.
After the meeting, this writer met with Borough Financial Administrator Jim Mangin. He stated that the borough budget for 2023 would increase by 2.9% over the 2022 budget. Of the budget increase, 82% of it is based upon employee health benefits and pension increases, he said. Total borough salaries have decreased by $92,601 or 1.6% due primarily to attrition in the police department.
The council approved to exceed the municipal budget cost of living allowance of 2.5% established by the State of New Jersey by 1% to 3.5%, the maximum allowed by the state, and to establish a cap bank. NJSA 40A:4-45.14 allows counties and municipalities to exceed the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for up to two years. Upper Saddle River has approved the maximum COLA and has established a cap bank for at least seven years.
A bond ordinance (#07-23) authorizing “various public improvements and the acquisition of new additional or replacement equipment and machinery, new communication and signal systems equipment, new information technology equipment and new automotive vehicles” in the sum of $1,518,000 was introduced to be voted on at next month’s meeting.
A bond ordinance (#08-23) “to authorize the improvement of Carlough Road and Pleasant Avenue” in the amount of $852,000 was introduced to be voted on at next month’s meeting.
A public hearing on submission of a 2023 Bergen County Trust Fund Grant Application for One Lake Street Park Block 601 Lot 1.02 was opened to the public for public comment and questions with no information as to the amount or its purpose presented to the public.
Mayor Fardanesh Presents 3-fold Plan on Water Issues
Mayor Arman Fardanesh, together with the USR Water Committee, has developed several strategies to address the issues posed by the commercial wells and burials on developments along Hillside Avenue in the Town of Ramapo, NY, which are immediately adjacent to Upper Saddle River Borough homes.
- “The Town of Ramapo is open to working with us,” Mayor Fardanesh said. There has been created a “Memo of Understanding ” between the USR and Ramapo Police Departments regarding dangerous traffic issues on Hillside Avenue and adjacent streets in USR resulting from large funerals at the cemetery.
- USR has interviewed three (3) environmental consultants and has retained a consultant to advise the borough on the possible environmental impacts of these developments.
- Mayor Fardanesh mentioned that he and the committee have scheduled a meeting with both NY and NJ State Legislators for later in June to discuss these issues on both state borders.
Other members of the USR Water Committee include Councilman Richard Lyons, Esq,, Borough Administrator Ted Preusch, Environmental Committee Chair Jay Perez, Esq., Resident William Spencer, Resident Jennifer Hoffman, and Resident Herbert (Larry) Klein, Esq.
USR residents residing on a cul-de-sac off Hillside Ave asked what the counci’s timeline is for replacing the Hillside Ave. bridge which has been closed for over 2.5 years. Councilman Ditkoff stated that the borough has applied for and received a grant to replace the bridge but it is insufficient to repair the bridge anytime soon. They also inquired as to when the home on Hillside Ave that had been destroyed by a 5-alarm fire more than 9 months ago would be demolished. The council responded that a demolition permit has been applied for and has recently been approved.
June was proclaimed to be LGBTQ Pride Month in Upper Saddle River.
June 2 was named National Gun Violence Awareness Day.