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Englewood Cliffs Council OKs $13.2M budget after six-hour meeting - ...

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Englewood Cliffs Council OKs $13.2M budget after six-hour meeting
Thursday, July 15, 2010





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ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS — The Borough Council adopted a $13.2 million budget during a contentious meeting, in which frustrated residents chided officials for their constant bickering and a Democratic councilman walked out after a shouting match. "We've always been a spirited council, but it's never been this bad before," Mayor Joseph Parisi, Jr. said Thursday, after the public meeting the night before, which lasted more than six hours and ended after 2 a.m. Much of the meeting focused on the municipal budget, which was approved 4-1, with Ilan Plawker — the only Democrat on the council at the time of the vote — dissenting. Democratic Councilman Thomas Manolio abrubtly left the meeting an hour earlier, saying he felt “personally attacked” after a comment made by Republican Councilman Robert Agresta. The budget, which represents a $588 increase over last year’s spending plan, has a $10.5 million tax levy. A taxpayer with a home assessed at $1.25 million, the borough's average, will pay $3,838 in municipal taxes — $200 more than last year. In order to reduce the burden on taxpayers, revenues from last year were shifted from surplus to the appropriations budget, Agresta, chairman of the finance committee, said Thursday. Democrats, including the mayor — who does not get a vote — opposed the budget, saying it did not provide a substantial cushion for capital road improvements, emergency tax appeals, litigation fees and overtime back pay costs for borough employees. On Tuesday, Parisi sent out an email blast and included a letter on his Facebook page criticizing the Republican majority for what he called an “irresponsible budget,” saying at the meeting that he wished he could veto the plan. He suggested adding at least another $500,000 to the capital budget in order to fix 17 potholeriddled roads this year in addition to making the necessary provisions for other expenses. “I’m really worried that come October, we’re going to run out of money, and I don’t want to be in a situation where we have to ask the state to bail us out,” Parisi said. But Agresta called the budget the “the cleanest and most accurate budget the borough has seen in years,” adding that “cushions” were already in place. If necessary, the council could issue a bond for various capital improvements, he said. Parisi’s email, Agresta said, was a “political ploy to set the Republican majority up to fail.” The relationship between borough officials, who are sharply divided along party lines, has been particularly acrimonious since January, when the political majority shifted from Democrat to Republican. Council members routinely argue during meetings, often interrupting and talking over each other, and on Wednesday night, several residents said they were fed up. Members of the public shouted out from their seats during the meeting, asking the council to “stop fighting,” and “stop being political.” Officials on both sides said

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Englewood Cliffs Council OKs $13.2M budget after six-hour meeting - ...

Thursday that the bickering has reached a new low. “Before, when we yelled and screamed at each other, it was behind closed doors, and out in public, it was always respectful, but now, it’s almost hateful,” Parisi said. “This Republican majority doesn’t want to bend at all...there’s no compromise. When (Republican Councilwoman) Carrol McMorrow wants something, she will stop at nothing to get it done,” Parisi said, adding that the lack of experience on the Republican majority was also to blame. But McMorrow, who was elected last fall along with running mate Martin Asatrian, said in an email Thursday that the bickering “comes from the Mayor, Councilman Plawker, and Councilman Manolio trying to roadblock any attempt at open minded conversation regardless of the subject matter if it is something that we propose. For years, the Council has been rubber stamping whatever the mayor wanted in this town. Those days are over, and that's a good thing on every level,” McMorrow wrote. McMorrow added that Parisi’s “arrogant attitude” was “typical of a career machine politician who is out-of-touch with the people he is supposed to represent.” But residents made it clear Wednesday night that they were sick of the political in-fighting. “This is appalling, you’re supposed to be serving this community and all you do is should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Sophia Rubis Duffy, who stood in the back for most of the crowded meeting in the Public Safety Complex. “My children behave better than this. I thought we were here to talk about the budget,” she said. E-mail:
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1. Thursday July 15, 2010, 11:23 PM - ChiefOritani says: Republicans are going down. Reckless governing is just wrong and people are annoyed about Republicans and will remember on Tuesday November 2nd

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