$0 municipal tax increase realized again in North Arlington

Mayor Daniel H. Pronti

Municipal taxes remain stable again, the police department is approaching its maximum personnel level and all borough employees are getting pay raises, including the mayor and borough council.

These were some of the highlights that stood out at a recent North Arlington Borough Council meeting.

With the adoption of this year’s $27.2 million municipal budget, “the tax impact on the average home is zero,” said Paul Lerch, partner at Lerch, Vinci & Higgins, of Fair Lawn, the borough’s auditing firm.

The owner of an average home assessed at $399,000 can expect to pay $3,674 as the municipal portion of their tax bill this year — the same as last year — Lerch said. (For 2021, the borough used $360,000 as the average value of a residential property.)

Of the $27.2 million in total projected municipal appropriations (excluding library support), Lerch is projecting the borough needs to raise about $18.5 million by local taxation, which is about $2.2 million below the state-mandated cap.

On the local schools side, Samantha Dembowski, school business administrator, reported that the tax levy was increased 2% for the 2022-2023 fiscal year and that means the average borough taxpayer “is looking at a tax increase of approximately $144 per year.”

The local share of the Bergen County budget has yet to be calculated but, based on Lerch’s projections, a borough property owner can expect to see their 2022 tax dollar split this way: 36¢ for municipal purposes, 55¢ for schools and 9¢ for the county share.

Although total spending is up over last year by about $400,000, Lerch said that increase was offset by factors such as a 30% hike in borough property values over the last five years, a budget surplus generated for the past seven years, an improved AA- bond rating, a 98% tax collection rate, nearly $2 million in reserves against potentially large tax appeals, $1.4 million set aside for employee terminal leave payments and almost $500,000 earmarked for fighting future storms.

All these gains, Mayor Daniel H. Pronti said, are evidence that “running a town can be done in a conscientious way” while providing the services residents come to expect, including providing “a nice, new (municipal) building to be proud of” – a goal that has proven to be elusive until now.

“I am proud to report that once again, we are successful in not having to raise North Arlington municipal property taxes a single penny this year” the a=mayor said. “In fact, during my time as Mayor of North Arlington, municipal taxes have not increased at all, for the average homeowner. Over that time, we have completely transformed our athletic fields and have been able to make many other necessary improvements, such as adding essential personnel to our police department and our DPW.

“Our roads are being paved, despite an influx of utility repairs going on; and our vehicles & equipment are all newer and fully operational. As a result, there is a sense of pride in North Arlington once again.”

Meanwhile, as mentioned by borough administrator Stephen LoIacono, improvements to the Borough Council chambers and courtroom in Borough Hall contracted to Tekcon Construction, of Somerset, has been “delayed a few months” because “it’s been slow getting materials,” such as “ceiling tiles and furniture” which have been “on back order, due to the recession.”

Those issues have prompted the governing body to authorize contract adjustments for alternate supplies, thus far escalating vendor payments up by nearly 14%, pushing up the total price, thus far, to more than $94,000.

But, at the same time, the borough is taking care of its employees, with a police promotion on the one hand and pay hikes for selected civilian workers on the other.

Police Sgt. David Hudak was elevated in rank to lieutenant, effective June 9, at an annual salary of $154,436.  His promotion marks “the first time since 2007” the NAPD has reached a level that brings it just two shy of the 34 maximum number of officers as set by the borough, according to Capt. Robert Reilly.

“And we’re looking to hire two more rank-and-file officers shortly,” Reilly said.

Hudak, who lived in Lyndhurst before moving to the borough a decade ago, began his career in law enforcement with the Newark PD, serving there from September 2009 to December 2010. He became a U.S. Air Marshal in March 2011. A year later, he joined the NAPD as a police officer, and was promoted to sergeant in June 2018.

Councilman Brian Fitzhenry said Hudak has been “a wonderful addition to the force” and Councilman Mario Karcik credited the officer with being “engaging with our kids — I’ve never heard a bad word about him.”

On the civilian side of the borough payroll, the governing body adjusted annual base pay for three department heads, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022, as follows: Robert Kairys, construction officer/zoning officer/fire subcode official, $114,613; Katie Moore, borough clerk, $103,000; and Gina Marshall, court administrator, $95,478.

Also receiving pay increases for 2022 were four full-time EMTs, nine non-contractual employees, along with the mayor (whose pay goes to $12,049) and the six council members (each now earning $10,430). And all per-diem EMTs and dispatchers received a 3.5% pay hike for 2022.

The governing body also hired John Braffa as a full-time DPW mechanic at a yearly salary of $81,294.

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York