A look at the expenses side of proposed budget

With City Council having introduced the proposed 2015 municipal budget earlier this month, and scheduled to vote on it at its next meeting, here’s a closer look at some of the items in the $52.5 million spending plan.

On the appropriations side, for most of the city’s major departments, the lines for salaries and wages was up about 2 percent while the lines for other expenses was up almost 6 percent overall, with some large swings between departments.

Here’s a spreadsheet breaking down most of those departments and the year-over-year changes. Some of the largest swings were:

  • General Administration, other expenses, +64%
  • Financial Administration, other expenses, +63%
  • Legal Services, other expenses, +36%
  • General Administration, salaries and wages, +30%
  • Parks and Recreation, salaries and wages, +16%
  • Municipal Court, salaries and wages, -8%
  • Community-Senior Services, salaries and wages, -11%
  • Parks and Recreation, other expenses, -12%
  • Health and Welfare, salaries and wages, -29%
  • Police Department, other expenses, -51%

Many of the changes on the expenses side are due to the fact that some departments have changed roles and responsibilities, according to City Administrator Cherron Rountree. For instance, a computer software program to enhance communication was transferred into Revenue and Finance (which is up 63 percent to $320,000) from individual department accounts where it was previously.

A 50-percent decrease in “other expenses” within the Police Department ($576,000 to $281,000) was due to the elimination of vendor costs for the red light camera program, according to Rountree. On the revenue side, the red light camera pilot program accounted for almost $900,000 last year.

Increases in the salary accounts generally include a 2-percent management increase for non-contractual employees and relative contract increases for union employees, Rountree said.  Some salaries have been transferred from department to department due to the roles and responsibilities of those departments changing, she said, such as employees transferred from senior center (down 11 percent) to recreation (up 16 percent).

Salaries and wages and other expenses from those approximately two dozen departments total at least $35 million. Overall, the $52.5 million budget is up 1.9 percent over last year’s $51.8 million and the tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — is up 3.73 percent, from $34.781 million to $36.07 million. Assessed at $133,000, the average home in Rahway would see a projected $120 increase in the municipal portion of the tax bill under the proposed budget.

Among the largest departments are police ($9 million in salaries and wages), fire ($5.5 million) and public works ($2.665 million).

City Council is scheduled for a public hearing and final adoption of the budget at its May 11 regular meeting. The Special Improvement District (SID) budget is typically approved at the same meeting and this year should look vastly different given the expansion of the SID.