Red Bank proposed budget dies on party lines

By MICHAEL NUNES
Staff Writer

RED BANK — With a tie-breaker vote cast by Mayor Pasquale Menna, the proposed 2016 borough budget failed to pass.

“I would prefer another week to digest it. … I cannot in good conscious vote ‘yes,'” said Menna at the May 25 Borough Council meeting.

The mayor was joined in voting no on the budget by the two fellow Democrats on the council, Kathleen Horgan and Edward Zipprich, along with former Republican-turned-Independent Council President Cindy Burnham.

The three Republicans on the dais, Linda Schwabenbauer, Mark Taylor and Michael Whelan, voted in favor of the budget, which carried a 1.98 percent tax increase from the previous year.

In the event of a tie on council, the mayor has the power to cast the deciding vote.

The proposed 2016 budget totaled $21.32 million with $12.16 million tax bill, which would have been paid by residents and commercial business owners.

A home assessed at the borough’s average of $354,006 would have a municipal tax bill of $2,070.90.

“It is disappointing to me that every single person who has voted ‘no’ on this budget has in the past voted for budgets with significantly higher tax increases,” said Schwabenbauer after the vote. She chairs the borough Finance Committee.

Horgan responded to Schwabenbauer’s comments.

“We have always fought to cut budgets, and I think on this one we could find some more areas [to cut],” she said.

Taylor echoed remarks made by the borough’s auditor, Robert Allison, earlier in the meeting, calling the proposed budget “prudent.”

“I do not disagree that we could find some more areas to cut, but … it might be irresponsible. This is a prudent budget. We could also continue to cut services, but that would be a disservice to the residents,” he said, telling those on council who voted against the budget, “Thank you for your votes, but I think you’re doing a disservice to the residents and to future years’ budgets.”

Zipprich criticized the 50-cent increase on parking rates at borough parking lots and street parking — intended to lessen the impact on residents — by saying the Finance Committee was trying to balance the budget by “chasing quarters.”

Whelan defended the budget, stating that any further cuts would negatively impact residents.

“If [the Finance Committee] does go back and make additional cuts, it will be cuts that will be worse for the town,” he said, further stating that this budget was the best one available.

Burnham thanked the Finance Committee on the budget, but said that cutting spending was what the borough needed to focus on.

“I want to commend the Finance Committee for looking for all these places to cut. I just think that cutting is great, but spending is where we are messing up,” Burnham said, adding that earlier this year the council spent $1.58 million on new water meters.

During the meeting, Menna called for a special meeting to be held sometime next week in order to further discuss the budget and any possible cuts that could be made.