The mayor of one Morris County town said he was left with no choice but to increase the tax rate on water sewer fees.
Come the next quarterly billing cycle, Parsippany-Troy Hills' new 39 percent will show up on the bill. That means residents will be paying approximately $150 a month in the fees.
"If I had a choice, there would’ve been no rate increase this year," Mayor Michael Soriano said in a Facebook announcement. "But I did not have a choice. The Council did not have a choice. And if you were in my shoes, you would not have had a choice, either."
The Township had been inching closer and closer to a major shortfall in water and sewer utilities, Soriano said.
After what he described as an exhausted fiscal analysis, Soriano said "anything less than this action would leave the Township in a disastrous financial position."
The last time water and sewer rates increased was in 2006.
"First, significantly smaller increases were proposed in 2018 and 2019," Soriano said. "They were not approved.
"This compounded the growing shortfall. Second, this was the final year we could have kept the water and sewer rates stagnant without both utilities going bankrupt. A major rate increase and bankruptcy were our only options."
The Township Council unanimously passed the increase during a council meeting Oct. 6.
"Robbing Peter to pay Paul created a problem because it doesn’t allow for rising costs and flat revenue," the mayor said. "This crunch was inevitable given the Township’s long-standing reliance on the water and sewer funds to balance the municipal budget."
Soriano refused to sugarcoat it: There was no avoiding this, he said.
"My goal has been and remains digging us out of this hole so that our long-term fiscal prospects improve substantially. This was a major step in that direction.”
Residents recognized the increase was necessary, but some said they would have appreciated more notice.
"It’s always someone else’s fault," one resident commented on the mayor's post. "39% is ridiculous nonetheless when people are struggling thru an pandemic! Disgraceful. This certainly doesn’t show any empathy for the residents of Parsippany. Poor fiscal management that now falls on residents, many already struggling. Shameful."
Others opined Soriano was just doing his job.
"Thank you Mayor for your transparency. You went above and beyond in explaining the situation and while no one wants such a surprise it seems that you all truly had no choice. Instead of spreading lies and disinformation let’s hope that residents rally around your call to work together to improve the long term finances of our town. But I suspect for some not even this level of openness about what led us to this point will be sufficient and there will be considerable Monday Morning Mayoring. Hang in there."
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