>Amid cuts, parking grace period mulled in Ridgewood
Thursday, April 15, 2010
BY MICHAEL SEDON
The Ridgewood News
The municipal budget is in flux with specific staff and service cuts still unknown, but the village government is kicking around an idea for a cut that residents may embrace.
While discussing this year’s budget for the Traffic and Signal Department, Village Manager Ken Gabbert asked Chris Rutishauser, village engineer, if it is possible to adjust parking meters to allow for a five-minute grace period.
The newer digital meters could be programmed to allow for a grace period, Rutishauser said. Gabbert requested that Rutishauser look at the time involved in opening up each meter to program the grace period.
The Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce asked its liaison on the Village Council, Deputy Mayor Keith Killion, if the meters could count backwards to show the actual time of the grace period. Mayor David Pfund said the village should first focus on the meters in the Central Business District before looking at all of the town’s nearly 1,300 parking meters, including those at the Route 17 park and ride.
The Engineering Department will lose one employee through retirement who will not be replaced, Rutishauser said. The department might also be issuing three major soil moving permits for the Board of Education’s bond referendum projects at Stevens and Stadium fields and Benjamin Franklin Middle School, and possibly a fourth for remediation work at Hawes Elementary School.
But because about 2,900 truck trips will be required to move the soil, Gabbert said, the permit cost of between $4,200 and $4,800 each will be negated by the damage to neighborhood streets.
The number of permits issued by the Building Department has decreased again this year, “and that’s purely due to the economy,” said Michael Barker, village tax assessor. Revenues totaled $689,086 in 2009, and the department is facing the possible layoffs of one full-time and one part-time employee, said Treasurer Steve Sanzari.
“The building permits have picked up a little bit because of the spring,” said Tony Merlino, Building Department director. “But zoning reviews have kind of remained flat.”
“There’s not building going on,” Barker said. “There’s no added assessment work. And as well as the economy being off, the property values are down, so the work that people are doing is not affecting the overall value of that property.”
Around 300 property owners have filed tax appeals, Barker said, and with declining property values, the village cannot successfully win many of these challenges.
Planning Board Secretary Barbara Carlton will retire at the end of this year, Rutishauser said, and Pfund asked if the planning and zoning board secretaries could be combined in one position. Rutishauser answered that “it is possible.”
One retiring employee at the Water Pollution Control Facility will not be replaced. Meanwhile, Rutishauser said, the liquid waste acceptance program has added a revenue stream to the village’s income. But he added that the waste water collection system is “aging,” and the village is looking into the possibility of applying for federal grants to upgrade some of that system.
The Finance Department is facing a staff reduction of four of its nine employees, which Sanzari said would have a “tremendous” effect on a department responsible for all the village’s payroll and accounting, all fees, special requests for project cost estimates, residents’ tax questions and the $118 million in taxes Ridgewood collects each year.
Employees from the tax assessor’s office could help the finance office at it busiest time of the year, around tax time, to make up for the loss of employees, Gabbert said. The village’s tax collection rate is still 99 percent, which is unchanged from the previous year, Gabbert said.
The village’s animal control officer will retire this summer, and the Health Department is not replacing him, said Health Supervisor Dawn Cetrulo. The department may also lose one part-time employee, Cetrulo added. Tyco Animal Control is currently under contract for $19,200, and that company will pick up the animal control duties of the retiring full-time employee at an additional cost of $28,800, she said.
The Information and Technology Department decreased its budget by 25 percent, said Dylan Hansen, network administrator. Further reductions to the department’s budget could come from reducing the number of cell phones the village issues to its employees. Hansen said the 102 village employees have been issued cell phones, and the council urged Hansen to evaluate which employees actually need them. Councilman Paul Aronsohn asked if the number could be cut in half, which would save between $20,000 and $25,000, Hansen said.
The village spent $205,000 for police and fire communications, landlines, wireless, long distance and Internet connections, but Hansen said by consolidating these services, the village could save an additional $30,000.