The Cedar Grove Township council held a special council meeting prior to the regular meeting last night where they discussed new legislation concerning the township budget.
The main issue discussed in both meetings focused on cuts to the capital budget projects portion of the budget.
Councilman Joseph Chiusolo reiterated his suggestion to keep the number around $350,000 — the number previously agreed upon.
“The capital budget has been proposed at $529,000 and that concerns me,” said Chiusolo. “I reached out to the (township) manager and spoke him about cutting it.”
“The reason for the $350,000 budget,” Township Manager Thomas Tucci said, “is we were trying to keep our debt service consistent for every year so we don’t make the tax rate jump on the tax service side. The reasoning why this year’s went up a little more is we’ve been having some brutal (October storm) weather.”
As an example, Tucci said last year’s budget had $125,000 appropriated for fixing roads and the township spent more than $225,00.
After last week’s meeting, Tucci separated items on this list that were critical and ones that could be put off for until next year. These cuts could possibly bring the capital budget projects figure down from $529,000 to closer to $374,000.
One of the items Tucci categorized as not crucial were the designs for Panther Park that would save the township $50,000. The money was to pay an architect to draw up plans for a concession stand, restrooms and other ballfields, but this created some debate.
“We would all want to move forward and do something with the park but the reality is we don’t have the funding to do the improvements,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Tanella. “So to spend $50,000 on designs is a total waste,” he added, saying “So why are we creating a design that may have to be redone or possibly thrown out?”
The problem in not having a design, Tucci said, was that you can’t get donations for something you do not have a design or a dollar value.
Councilman Robert O’Toole suggested using volunteers for the project, something Tanella said, “I believe the high school concession stands were built by volunteers too,” but the problem was again, without a design it would be harder to get done.
Tucci reminded the council, “even if we leave this out now, the capital budget projects can always be revisited in a resolution at any time.”
Tucci also said out of the average household taxes of $9,950, only $1,678, or 18 percent, goes to the township. Under the proposed township budget, taxes for the average homeowner with a home assessed at $470,400 would go up an average of $55.51 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. The proposed budget is $12,524,502, up from last year’s budget of $12,278,379, a hike of $247,123.
Tucci also made the following suggested cuts:
• A walkway at Panther Park saving $10,000.
• A portable generator for the Department of Public Works saving $1,000.
• A few municipal building improvements, like fixing doors and an old wall in storage near the police department, saving $15,000.
• Two generators for the North and South End Fire Departments saving $75,000. These were suggested to make conditions more convenient if another incident like the October snowstorm occurred. Tucci said services would still be available for citizens like this.
• The cable committee has a fund as insurance in case of a cable TV electronics break down. Cutting this fund will save the township $4,000.
Another budget issue was the raising of Solid Waste and Collection District budget 5 percent.
“It hasn’t been raised since 2007 and would only be a percent per year,” said Tucci. “It needs to happen because if it goes over, it goes back to the taxpayers and that’s not fair.”
For water, the proposal would raise the charges for less than 5,000 gallons use from $21.50 to $22.50 per gallon and above 5,000 gallons, the rate would change from $4.30 to $4.50 per gallon.
For sewage, less than 20,000 gallons, the proposal will raise charges from $79.50 to $83.40 and above 20,000, the rate would change from $6.50 to $6.80.
A public budget hearing will be held April 16 at 7 p.m.
In other news:
• Tanella asked to invite state Sen. Kevin O’Toole to discuss a shared services bill with the council. Even though the plan is only in the infancy stages, Tanella would like O’Toole just to explain to the council how it works.
• Zunic appointed Michael Barcadi to an open trustees positions on library board.
• Candidates for the township Environmental Commission position for alternate or full time position will be interviewed next week.
• Quality Electrical Construction of Keansburg was awarded the bid for furnishing and installation of field lighting and CTV system at the community park.
• The council approved a plan to exceed the municipal budget appropriated limits by one percent and establish a cap bank, which would create a buffer in case of emergencies and will roll over into the budget if not used, Tucci said. The township is allowed by state law to set aside this extra one percent for future budgets. This one percent must be put into a budget within two years. Tucci explained it was approved in 2010 and 2011 and that one percent from those years was used to create this year's budget.
• The council approved the deferral of the school tax levy, which was deferred Dec. 31, 2010 from $11,736,379,50 and will increase it to $11,965,112.60.
• The council approved a resolution that the cash tax collection will be based off of the tax collection on the 2011 net tax levy of $44,687,395.15, which will result in a 98.96 percent collection rate.