At the June 23rd meeting of the Board of Trustees, we approved a budget with the lowest tax rate increase since the 1990s (graph below). This is no small feat, and major credit goes to our administrator Barry Lewis, our administration and department heads and all staff and the entire Board of Trustees for continuing their work to control costs without cutting essential services. In fact, as we've managed to stabilize the budget for the first time in over a decade, we've also managed to find ways to expand the services, events, outreach and work that we do in the Village. (P.S., we know there's always more we could be doing... Let us know what you'd like to see!)
What this budget partially shows is what reasoned thinking, extreme diligence in leaving no stone unturned to both cut costs and find ways to bring in more revenue can accomplish. And it can't be done without a group of people dedicated towards the common goal of trying to reduce the cost of living in South Orange.
If you're interested in more, you can find the user-friendly presentation and summary of the budget, as well as the municipal budget in an interactive Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet format on our website or the video of the meeting.
In other exciting recent news, last night News 12 was in South Orange, spotlighting the Village as part of their "On the Road" series. After getting to share why, as nearly a life-long resident I love this community so much, they went to profile some of our great local businesses, including Sparkhouse, Kitchen a La Mode and Ricalton's. Check out the videos and information posted on their website (which you may still be able to get limited access to even without an Optimum Online account) by clicking below (the segment aired last night).
Bringing attention to all of the outdoor dining (which was helped this summer by several ordinance changes we finally made, making it easier and less expensive for establishments to put tables outside), the incredible music scene (free outdoor concerts on Sloan Street and Spiotta Park every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30pm) and most importantly, the amazing people who make this community truly unique, is well deserved for our village, and we hope to welcome them back soon.
But to be clear, this isn't just publicity for the Village for the fun of it - it is part of a larger strategic outreach effort. Bringing more attention to the amazing things going on in town brings more outside visitors and money to our local businesses, more patrons to our performing arts center, and more interest in rapidly growing downtown apartment opportunities. More interest in our downtown means that next time we develop a site (several are in early stages of planning and negotiation now) the bidding process will continue to be more competitive, giving us more leverage over the value we can create from the project. This means that when we go out to bid, we can require more green features, negotiate larger financial contributions, require expanded public parking for commuters and shoppers and much more.
Anyway, I hope everyone's summer is going well, and please feel free share the great news about what's been happening in town. Don't forget to find South Orange Village on Facebook for more news and updates, and the South Orange Village Center Alliance's Facebook page, with a wealth of information about happenings in the downtown.
Hope to see you around!