Last night we had a Town Council Meeting. Here are the highlights.
Most importantly, we introduced our budget for 2023. The hearing on the budget will be on April 17th. Total appropriations are projected to be $27.1 million, with $17.5 of that raised by taxes. This represents a 2.14% increase in taxes, which is the lowest tax increase since 2017. I want to applaud our Administration and staff for their budget management in 2022. During a high inflation environment we were able to end the year with a surplus. In addition, this 2023 budget addresses issues we have with some departments being chronically understaffed through the strategic addition of part time and full time staff.
Members of the public can examine the budget by accessing the documents here: https://www.veronanj.org/budgetinfo. The documents that we introduced last night should be posted by week's end. If you have a comment on the budget, I highly encourage you to email the Council by using the attached form: https://www.veronanj.org/council. You can also participate in the budget hearing on April 17th.
Last night we took several actions related to the pool. We approved the 2023 pool rules, which included an expansion of the pool hours. The baby pool will now open every day at 10 am for children 7 years and younger. This change was suggested by parents for several years as part of the pool survey, and I have heard this feedback from parents repeatedly. Before I joined the Council, a regular end of the year pool survey was not conducted. I pushed to make that part of our annual process and I am thrilled that feedback from pool members was incorporated into our pool rules for the 2023 season.
We also last night voted on pool fees and they passed with a vote 4-1. As was previously discussed in my updates, pool membership rates and fees are going up across the board. The exception to this will be for volunteer first responders. Last night the Council unanimously agreed to keep providing our volunteer first responders and their families free pool memberships as a thank you to their service to our community. Thank you to all of the first responders I spoke with and the conversations we had on the importance of supporting their families with this benefit.
While membership rates and fees are going up, I think with the expanded hours, refurbished slide, and new baby pool/splash pad, we are in for a fun pool season! I hope families to seniors alike consider joining the pool this year - it is our best asset in our community and is a great value for the summer.
Under resolutions, we approved some significant projects. We authorized the firm Neglia Engineering to start designing the refurbished Everett Field. They will draft some proposals for us for on the design. Once completed, we will have many community conversations on the proposal so that we can get ample feedback.
We also announced that we are applying for a grant to study a shared service with North Caldwell and Essex Fells to consolidate our municipal courts. North Caldwell and Essex Fells currently share a municipal court and we are looking to join. More on this potential consolidation at a future meeting.
Other items approved include accepting donated equipment from Cedar Grove for both turf field maintence and fire fighting, some finance administrative matters associated with the annual budget process, and observing Irish American Heritage Month with a flag raising. We also approved going into Executive Session.
In new business, we had a very significant conversation on how the Council wants to proceed with implementing recommendations from our 2022 Master Plan, especially as it relates to zoning. Based on a suggestion I made, we are going to solicit proposals from Planning firms to guide us through the process. If done right, the Council will spend a significant amount of time on this project over the next year. We are overdue in making changes to our zoning code, which can help increase investment in our business districts along Bloomfield Avenue and Pompton and increase tax revenue.
If you have any feedback on any issues the Council discussed, please do not hesitate to reach out to the entire Council by using the following link: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform.