CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
MOUNTAINSIDE, FANWOOD SEE TAX DECLINE; WESTFIELD SEES SLIGHT HIKES
Freeholder Board Unveils $288.2 Million Budget; County Taxes to Drop in Eleven Municipalities
By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
For the third consecutive year the overall amount of money to be raised through property taxes to support Union County government is going down.
However,despite adropof$105,000 in the county budget to support this year’s proposed $288.2 million budget, not all residents will see a drop in the county portion of their tax bills come August 1.
Officials say this is based on a number of factors including an upward spike in property values.
Those towns that will see a decline in county taxes are: Clark, Cranford, Fanwood, Garwood, Mountainside
Plainfield, Roselle, Roselle Park, Springfield, Union and Winfield.
County taxes will be going up in BerkeleyHeights,Elizabeth,Hillside, Kenilworth,Linden,NewProvidence, Rahway, Scotch Plains, Summit and Westfield.
Last year, county taxes dropped in 15 of the county’s 21 municipalities including Westfield, which has the fourth highest county tax levy just after Elizabeth, Union and Summit.
A total of $14,484,749 will come from Westfield, up $106,537 from 1998; $8,557,795 in Scotch Plains, an increase of $29,645; $2,382,294 in Fanwood, a decrease of $40,781 from last year.
Mountainside, which was one of six towns where county taxes rose last year, will pay $4,114,451 for county services this year, a slight decline of $6,288.Berkeley Heightswilltakethe biggest hit with a tax increase of $457,314 in 1999 to $8,370,958.
On the other hand, Union Township will see their county taxes drop by $668,467 to $15,023,257.
Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, Chairman of the Finance Committee, saidthe ExecutiveBudgetaspresented tothe FreeholdersbyCountyManager MichaelJ.Lapolla wascutby$105,000 during the committee’s deliberations.
He said county department heads were asked to cut their capital budget requests by 20 percent by prioritizing the top 80 percent of their requests.
“It (the overall cut) didn’t come as big chunks anywhere (in the budget),” he said. “It came from everywhere in the operating budget.”
The Committee Chairman, in his second year as a Freeholder, said he was, “thrilled to be able to present a budget to the taxpayers that is a tax cut for the third year in a row.”
He noted that the spending plan presented by Mr. Lapolla was “lean” in the first place, “so there wasn’t a lot of areas to cut.”
The County Manager emphasized that the amount of money to be raised through taxes for fiscal year 1999 is actually less than the total raised in 1995whenthe overalllevywas$152.6 million. This year’s budget will be supported by raising $150.1 million in taxes,orroughly52 percentofthetotal revenue needed to support the spending plan.
The percentage of the total budget raised through taxes has dropped 16 percent over the past nine years, according to figures released by county officials.
“I don’t think there is any county governmentinNew Jerseythatcansay they are spending less tax dollars and have alowertaxrate nowthantheydid five years ago,” the County Manager stated.
Mr. Lapolla said despite some who may think the county’s $41 million surplusisdue solelytogoodeconomic times, the truth of the matter is that the county has made wise investments.
Among the programs included in the budget are:
· Access 2000 – a grant program offering funds to enable all school districtsinthecounty toobtainhighspeed Internet access, teacher training and educatorgrants.This isthesecondyear
of the three-year, $3 million program.
· Project Pocket Parks — a $1 millioncountydollar-for-dollarmatching grant program enabling towns to obtain funds to create new parks or upgrade and improve existing parks and funds. Towns can apply for up to $100,000 for new parks and $25,000 to replace or improve an existing park.
Last year, the first year of the program, provided $1.7 million in grants. All 21 towns applied and received funds in 1998.
· Freeholder Scholar Program – a new program created by Freeholder ChairmanNicholas P.Scutari.Theprogram is designed to assist middleclass families in the county with tuition for college-aged children. High school seniors who graduate this year with a “B” average and maintain that average whileattendingUnionCounty College full-time can have the cost of their tuition paid through the new scholarship.
Downtown Union County, another program this year, is aimed at assisting countymunicipalitieswithupgrading their business districts. The $5 million grant will enable towns to apply for funds to renovate and improve their shopping areas.
Freeholder Mary P. Ruotolo of Westfield noted that funding Access 2000 has been increased over last year withadditional fundsnowavailablefor teacher training. She said the HEART (History, Education, Arts Reaching Thousands)grants haveonceagainbeen included in the county budget.
Freeholder Linda d. Stender, who chaired the Finance Committee last year, called the spending plan a “fiscally conservative budget.”
A public hearing on the budget will be held Thursday, May 20. The board will vote to adopt the spending plan following the hearing.
Inother business,theboardapproved a $25,000 planning grant to the TownshipofScotchPlains toassistthecommunity in the creation of a master plan to help attract and sustain businesses in its shopping district.
Theboard alsoadoptedanordinance that appropriates $20 million for the rehabilitation and renovation of the Union CountyCourthouse.Theproject willbepaidfor throughtheissuanceof bonds.
Quotingthe architectfortheproject, Freeholder Vice Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan, filling in for Freeholder Scutari in the Chairman’s role, noted that the cost for a new building would be in the $100 million range. Several board members said they had questioned the high cost of the project but, in the end, decided the project was essential for safety and other reasons.
Freeholder Sullivan said the work will take between four and five years to complete.
On another matter, Hoboken-based “This Is It” Concept and Event Production Company of Hoboken was given a $40,000 contract to plan, produce and promote the county’s new Blues Festival planned for July 4 in Plainfield.
The promotion follows the long-established countySummerArtsFestival as well as the Jersey Jazz By The Lake two-dayfestival atNomaheganParkin Cranford. That festival, which began last year and is also promoted by the Hoboken firm, is held in September.
ACTING GOVERNOR DIFRANCESCO SIGNS BILL
Kean University Expansion Gains Lift With $6 Mil. in State Funding
By PAUL J. PEYTON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
UNION — Kean University’s efforts of expanding academic offerings gotamajor boostyesterdaywhenstate legislators handed over a check for $6 million to university officials.
The new 50,000-square-foot academic building, which will be funded includes another $3.1 million from the university, will house 20 new classrooms, eight computer laboratories, a 100-seat lecture hall, faculty offices and departmental libraries.
Construction is expected to be completed in December, with the facility ready for classes next spring. Ground was broken in September, 1998.
The building, according to University President Dr. Ronald Applbaum, will enable Kean’s School of Education and School of Natural Science, Nursingand Mathematicstoofferprograms utilizing state-of-the-art technology.
Dr. Applbaum said the project will be completed with no increases in student tuition.
The four-story building is the first new academic building at Union County’s only four-year higher learning institution since 1974 when neighboring Hutchinson Hall was built.
Founded in 1955, the university is located on 150 acres in Union and Hillside Townships. Kean gained university status two years ago.
The state legislation, State Senate Bill No. 1340 and Assembly Bill No.
2198, which appropriated the state funds, was signed into law by Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco of ScotchPlains,the PresidentoftheState Senate. Senator DiFrancesco, a memberoftheLegislature forover20years, was one of five co-sponsors on the legislation.
“The (new) academic building is in manywayssymbolic ofthegrowthand upwardprogress thatKeanhasexperienced over the past few years,” Senator DiFrancesco told attendees during the short ceremony.
Funding wasmadepossiblethrough the Jobs, Education, and Competitiveness Bond Act of 1988. The bond was approved by voters to construct, improve and equip academic buildings, librariesand computerfacilitiesatNew Jersey’s publicandprivateuniversities.
The legislation was sponsored by State Senator C. Louis Bassano of Union,anelected officialwhohasalso served 20 years in the Legislature.
He noted that student population at Keanhasrisen65 percentsincethelast building ontheuniversity,Hutchinson Hall, opened in 1974.
The funding for Kean University is “another example of legislation committed to helping New Jersey students reachtheir academicgoals,”saidSenator Bassano.
The legislation was also co-sponsored by Assemblymen Richard H. Bagger of Westfield; Alan M. Augustine of Scotch Plains, representing the 22nd Legislative District; and Neil
Cohen and Joseph Suliga, who represent the 20th District.
A former 16-year veteran of the town’s governingbodyincludingthree one-year Mayoral terms, Assemblyman Augustine called the appropriation of the state funds “a worthwhile investment”for bothstudentsandtheir families. He said the university has become “a force to be reckon with” among the state’s colleges.
Dr. Applbaum, Kean’s 16th President, said the additional building will enable the university to continue its “steady, progressive march into the next millennium.”
He noted that Kean has the highest number ofeducationgraduatesamong public universities in New Jersey.
“The newacademicclassroombuilding isoneofthe keycomponentsinour three-year program of campus capital improvements. We’re working to enhancenotonly theappearanceofKean, butalsoourability toteach,tocompete and to serve our extended community as NewJersey’sinteractivemetropolitan university,” Dr. Applbaum explained.
Kean, which offers 40 undergraduate majors and 21 graduate programs, has 12,000 students, placing it as the thirdlargest amongthestate’scolleges and universities according to universityofficials.
The university, which moved to Union from Newark in 1958 when it was called Newark State College, was founded in 1855.
More County News
On Page 21
Paul J. Peyton for The Westfield Leader and The Times
A HAPPY DAY AT KEAN...Kean University President Dr. Robert Applbaum, third from left, is presented with a $6 million check from New Jersey State Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco of Scotch Plains, second from left, and State Senator C. Louis Bassano, far left, of Union. Senator DiFrancesco, as Acting Governor, signed state legislation appropriating the state funds to Kean as part of the Jobs, Education, and Competitiveness Bond Act of 1988. The funds will be used towards construction of a four-story building on campus.
Colonial Crafters, Vendors Sought For Harvest Festival
ELIZABETH – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has announced that artisans and crafts people are needed to demonstrate colonial or Native American work/ craft skills and sell their wares at Union County’s 18th Annual Harvest Festival.
The autumn event features live period music, Native American dancing, a colonial magic show, a Revolutionary War encampment children’s crafts, colonial food, games and much more.
The festival will take place at Trailside Nature and Science Center, 452 New Providence Road, Mountainside, on Sunday, September 26, from 11 am. to 5 p.m. The event will be held rain or shine.
Examples of skills being recruited are spinning, kick wheel pottery,
broom making, shoe making and hat malting. Native American skills and crafts being sought are cooking, use of herbs and medicinal plants and flute making.
For more information, please contact Betty Ann Kelly, Union County Division of Parks and Recreation at (908) 527-4231.
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