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March 23rd, 2015
Contact: Mayor’s Office of Public Information ~ Public Information Office
973-266-5153 / Office 973-395-8927 / Fax ~ publicinformation@eastorange-nj.gov

Mayor Lester Taylor III Introduces Budget; Proposes 3.5% Tax Increase to Right Size Government and Put City on Path Toward Fiscal Stability

East Orange, NJ, March 23, 2015: Mayor Lester E. Taylor III introduced a proposed 2015 Calendar Year budget during Monday’s City Council Meeting that will strengthen the community and further advance his administration’s vision that East Orange set the standard for urban excellence and become a destination city.

“In this budget, we propose a steady path toward fiscal solvency through consolidation of services, right sizing our government and a minimal tax increase with the intention of steady decline in the increase until the city is on strong fiscal footing,” said Mayor Taylor. “The city’s structural deficit was not created in one year and cannot be addressed in the same amount of time. But I remain committed to taking the steps necessary to stabilize taxes while maintaining the high quality services that the residents of East Orange deserve and expect.’’

Due to these significant challenges, Mayor Taylor has proposed a property tax increase of $212.70 a year ($53.18 per quarter) for the average home valued at $175,000.

“That’s down nearly one point from last year’s increase,” he said. “Our goal is to continue this downward trend until we can stabilize taxes by the year 2017.”

Mayor Taylor said that his administration, along with the City Council, must be smart, strategic and bold when making decisions in the best interest of East Orange families and taxpayers. Some of those decisions included overhauling the management of the East Orange Water Commission and temporarily closing the East Orange Golf Course.

As a result of Mayor Taylor’s decision to revamp the EOWC, the deficit at the water commission has shrunk from $3.7 million to $2.1 million. With a new set of commissioners who have immediately addressed management practices and responded to repairs in a timely and fiscally-prudent manner, the EOWC intends to eliminate its deficit by next year.

Coincidentally, construction began on the East Orange Golf Course on Monday.

“I made the difficult decision to close the golf course last June, but now, after careful research and planning with the Ad-Hoc Golf Committee and golf, architectural and financial experts, we are target to restore and rebrand the golf course so that it will be better than ever before,” said Mayor Taylor. “With over $100 million of private capital being invested in the East Orange, and a continuing influx of interest from national and regional commercial retailers, the city is on a trajectory to rebuild our tax base and strengthen our economy.”

Despite financial challenges, Mayor Taylor said that the City of East Orange is better off than it was one year ago.

“We have made long overdue investments in outdated systems to improve our efficiencies. We have re-energized an entire blighted area where development had been stalled for 10 years,” said Mayor Taylor. “We have aggressively improved our infrastructure and services through our Quality of Life Task Force.”

Over the next year, the Mayor added, the city anticipates additional revenue from new sources, including taxes generated from the pending partnership between East Orange General Hospital and Prospect Medical Holdings, as well as fees collected through the city’s new Division of Vacant and Abandoned Properties. This division has already brought in over $100,000 in the two months since it started identifying and tracking down negligent property owners.

The Mayor said the city will continue to make investments in its top priorities – quality of life, education, public safety and workforce development.

“The challenges in our budget have inspired our departments to think critically and creatively. To that end, we’ve developed some forward-thinking solutions that eliminate duplicative services, inefficiency and overlap,” said Mayor Taylor. “In essence, we are bringing our government into the 21st Century.”

CONTACT: Connie Jackson, 973-266-5153, ext. 5339, connie.jackson@eastorange-nj.gov