Former Village of Munsey Park trustee Anthony Sabino is challenging incumbent Mayor Lawrence Ceriello in the upcoming March village election. Sabino lost his trustee seat this past year by one vote to Regina Im and recently announced his candidacy for the mayorship. Ceriello has been the mayor since 2019 and was previously a trustee on the board for two years.
“I felt that it was important to run for mayor because first and foremost, the democratic process has to be upheld,” Sabino said. “There should be a contested election. I think that uncontested elections are a very bad thing. I do have serious disagreements with respect to current Munsey Park policies. I was adamantly opposed to the tax hike of last year, and I will be opposed to any tax hike this year.”
Sabino’s biggest issue, the tax hike, is based on the budget he voted no to this past year that increased property taxes by $26,000, a $31 average increase per the 840 households in Munsey Park. Sabino was joined by then-Deputy Mayor Jennifer Noone as “no” votes, but lost the vote after Ceriello, trustees Antonio D’Angelo and Joseph Williams, voted yes. Revenue has dropped $100,000 for Munsey Park in the last two years and expenses have been cut to match the decreased revenue, but Sabino claims that more could have been done to prevent the tax hike.
“Effective government that saves money when it can, where it can, that does not needlessly expend taxpayer money,” Sabino said. “The true question is wherever you are in America, do you raise people’s taxes during the health crisis, during the economic uncertainty? When you don’t know who is sick, when you don’t know who is out of work, when you don’t know whose jobs have been disappeared or been cut back.”
Ceriello takes issue with the criticism, stating that the village cut expenses down in order to prevent an even bigger tax hike in its budget this year. A decrease in traffic due to the pandemic has seen the village’s fine income plummet and Ceriello is also not expecting to see the $13,000 in revenue sharing the state provides every year.
“Mr. Sabino’s complaints about a $26,000 tax increase, he’s completely ignoring the holes that are blowing up in our budget for these other things,” Ceriello said. “I don’t hear him complaining about what happened to the fine income and how is the village dealing with that? I don’t hear them complaining about the building permit income, not being half of what it was five years ago. Trust me, I’m not looking for income just to spend it on projects. We’ve rebuilt more roads than any other administration has done. We’ve done it from cash flow, at the same time, paying for roads that somebody did 14 years ago. So, it’s a little hypocritical of him too, or anyone to, criticize a $26,000 tax increase when you don’t also focus on how you cut spending.”
The village is expected to free up around $230,000 in its budget next year after paying off a bond to rebuild one of its roads.
Ceriello’s main focus as mayor has been to rebuild the previously ignored infrastructure of the village. It does come at an expense, but the village has not taken out a new bond and has paid with cash on hand. Sabino believes the $190,000 roadwork budget could have been cut down to make up the $26,000 gap in order to prevent the tax hike.
“I think roads are important and I want to have the roads fixed, but it must be done in a very rational way with priority given to the worst roads first,” Sabino said. “It has to be done in a manner where we do what we can afford, and we do what we can with the money that’s there.”
Ceriello sees a prime opportunity to get roadwork done as construction companies are looking for work during the economic uncertainty creating more competition on bids put out.
“There’s a limited bucket of cash, but for me, enough was enough,” Ceriello said. “The roads had to be done, that’s job one. The pricing that we’re getting on the roadwork is extremely favorable because the contractors that want to do this work are hungry for work.”
Sabino and Ceriello will face off in a village election on March 16. D’Angelo and Williams will also be on the ballot, but no challengers have been announced.