The Mayor and Council adopted its 2017 municipal budget at its public meeting May 4, 2017. The Budget Committee consisting of, Mayor J. Minichetti, Councilmen V. Durante, S. DiMartino and R. DeBerardine worked diligently to limit expenses and maintain a stable tax rate. Although many State mandated and uncontrollable expenses such as pension costs, health care and contractual salary expenses have increased, the 2017 budget has resulted in a municipal tax increase of $76.00 for an average assessed home of $755,500.00. The following are some items of interest:

The Borough of Upper Saddle River utilizes a General Ledger to keep an accurate accounting of all municipal finances. Recently our 2016 Audit was presented to the Council. The recommendations made by the Auditor will have been made by the end of June, 2017.

For years 2014 through 2016,  the tax rate decreased slightly.  In 2017 the tax increase is .01 or 2.7% over the previous year.  Effectively then the taincrease from 2014 to 2017 was 2.7% averaging less than 1% annual increaseDivide the increase of 2.7% by 4 years, it amounts to an increase of .675% per year.

For the years 2012 to 2016,  the collection rate has increased from 98.88% to 99.25%. Also, the amount of delinquent taxes from 2012 to 2016 has decreased from $503,558.72 to 279,959.76. In 2012, eleven (11) tax liens were sold at the annual tax sale compared to 2 tax liens sold at the 2016 tax sale.

During budget deliberations, consideration is given to our five year capital improvement budget. That portion of the budget includes funds allocated for road resurfacing, replacement of equipment in all departments, compliance with State and Federal mandates such as self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighter safety, lengths of large diameter hose for the fire department, replacement of heating equipment and roof replacement including wood surfaces on the salt barn to comply with DEP regulations dealing with the storage of road salting materials.  Each year we review with each department’scapital requirements to arrive at meaningful amounts.

In the last ten years we have worked to keep our outstanding debt at the lowest level possible.  This is one of the major reasons that Moody’s has awarded its Triple A rating to Upper Saddle River during this period of time.We also work to pay off as much debt as we can if funds are available; for example in 2016, we paid off $3.3 Million of outstanding debt.  Going forward we will continue to monitor our debt and keep it as low as possible. Upper Saddle River is in compliance with statutory limits.

Upper Saddle River only borrows monewhen the need arises. For five years prior to 2016 the interest rate was less than 1% per year paid on borrowed funds. In 2016 the Borough paid 1.20% interest on its Bans financing.  Because of Moody’s Triple A rating, we took complete advantage of low prevailing interest rates.

Our Bonds and Notes are based upon the needs of the Borough of Upper Saddle River and are in compliance with State Statute. We do not make any decisions or opinions on what other municipalities do as each have different needs, priorities, and financial projections.    

What is the impact of the July 11, 2016 Appellate Court decision on the Borough’s housing obligation? The Borough was one of a number of municipalities that formed a consortium which appealed the decision of a trial judge that upheld the position of Fair Share Housing Center (“FSHC”) requiring towns to satisfy an affordable housing obligation state-wide of 145,000 units for the 1999-2015 period, commonly referred to as the “gap period”. The decision of the Appellate Division would eliminate these units from the housing obligations of towns throughout the State. Congratulations to the Borough’s Special Counsel Ed Buzak, the lead counsel for the League of Municipalities, who successfully litigated this matter on our behalf.

As is noted in Question 6 of Questions and Answers Regarding One Lake Street, two sets of affordable housing obligations have been promulgated for every town by two different experts, and these numbers were recently revised in mid-May. Econsult, which represents the municipal consortium, has determined the Borough’s obligation to the year 2025 to be 347 units. Econsult’s position is that the Borough, like every town in Bergen, has a zero unit obligation for the gap period.
FSHC contends that the Borough has an obligation of 529 units for the same period. For Housing Region 1 (Bergen, Hudson, Passaic and Sussex), the percentage of units FSHC’s expert has allocated to the gap period is 30%. If USR’s number is adjusted proportionately, FSHC’s revised number for the Borough would be reduced to 370 units. It must be emphasized that in the past, FSHC’s expert has not adjusted its housing estimates on an even or proportionate basis. Furthermore,

FSHC has not ruled out an appeal of the Appellate Division decision to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Ultimately, the Borough’s affordable housing obligation will be determined by a Superior Court judge.

What else can be done? At the July 7th Mayor and Council meeting, the Governing Body passed a resolution supporting legislation which would eliminate, for all towns, a housing obligation for the gap period. Bills have been introduced in both the State Senate (Bill No. S2254) and General Assembly (Bill No. A3821) which would by law provide that towns have no housing obligation for the gap period. Although the three Judge panel of the Appellate Division ruled that Judges have power to approve or reject development plans, the court held that the underlying affordable housing formula is not for the courts, but rather for the Legislature and Governor. Legislation to eliminate any possibility of additional housing obligations for the gap period is critical to ensure against exorbitant and unrealistic development.

Residents are urged to write, call or email the following representatives and request that they support this legislation:

Hon. Chris Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton,NJ 08625

Hon. Steve Sweeney, President, NJ Senate
935 Kings Highway
Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086

Hon. Vincent Prieto, Speaker, NJ General Assembly
1 Harmon Plaza
Suite 205
Secaucus, NJ 07094

Hon. Gerald Cardinale, NJ Senate
350 Madison Ave.
Cresskill, NJ 07626

Hon. Holly Schepisi, NJ General Assembly
287 Kinderkamack Rd.
Westwood, NJ 07675

Hon. Robert Auth, NJ General Assembly
1069 Ringwood Ave.
Suite 312
Haskell, NJ 07420
862-248-0491 or 201-567-2324