Minutes: March 20, 2019*

Township Council Special Workshop Meeting

Call to Order

The special workshop meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 5:00 p.m. on March 20, 2019 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Jean Murphy presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on March 5, 2019 and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the Township Budget-Council Recommendations. Official Action may be taken.

Roll Call

Present were Council Members Sandra Ooms, Patrick Curreri, Mark Van Tassel, John Auberger and Council President Murphy. Also present were Mayor Harry Shortway, Business Administrator Charles Voelker, CFO Donelle Bright, Township Auditors William Schroeder and Francis Jones.

Salute to the Flag

Council President Murphy led the assemblage in the salute to the flag.

Recess

Council President Murphy asked for a motion for a short recess.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to take a short recess at 5:01 p.m.

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to return to the meeting.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to return to meeting at 5:12 p.m.

Public Comments (For Current Agenda Items Only, Limited to 3 minutes per person)

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Mark Van Tassel
All members were in favor.

Seeing no members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Murphy asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Mark Van Tassel
All members were in favor.

Items for Discussion

Council Recommendations

Council President Murphy questioned that since the VTMUA anticipate receivables from Mountain Creek in its budget what effect would that have on the Township if the money was not received. Ms. Bright stated that the Township cannot anticipate funds because Vernon is no sure how much will be received by Mountain Creek at this time. She added that if the VTMUA is unable to pay bond payments, the Township will use funds from the Miscellaneous Revenue accounts.

Council Member Ooms opined that the proposed 2019 budget needs to be cut because the School and County both are proposing increases. Council Member Ooms suggested that Administration knows where to cut. Council President Murphy commented the Board of Education presented their budget to the County with a $190.00 increase and are not looking to make any adjustments to decrease it. Ms. Bright stated she wanted to hear the Council Recommendations before making any changes with debt payment schedule or capital purchases. Ms. Bright noted the concern that the Township is responsible for the Sewer Debt and required to make the payments. She added the Township Auditors recommend not to introduce the budget on March 25 until all recommendations are made but noted that an increase to the temporary must be made to cover daily expenses for April and May. Ms. Bright suggested that the Council have an additional meeting for recommendations to the budget because the final budget numbers are not completed.

Council Member Curreri stated he is in favor to pay down the debt as soon as possible and understands the impact on the tax rate but would like to see the figures prior to a decision. Ms. Bright explained, with present and future Council’s effort, the goal is to pay off the notes by time due, to prevent permanent financing and move toward a cash capital plan. Council President Murphy noted that past Councils were trying to borrow Vernon’s way out of debt. Mayor Shortway added that $3.6 million is due in 2023 with other bond payments jumping substantially and expressed concern for long term.

Council President Murphy expressed concern for the taxpayers and recommended the budget be cut in half with the municipal tax increase limited to no more than $80.00. Council President Murphy requested that some capital purchases be bonded and vehicles leased. She added that there is no justification for the employee increases of more than 2%. Council Member Ooms agreed with Council President Murphy. Council Member Ooms suggested that if administration wanted to give larger raises out to some employees than other employees should get smaller raises so that it averaged out to a 2% total increase. Ms. Bright expressed concern over the legality of same.

The Council requested the removal of $8,500 out of the Administration budget for the duplicate QPA services and removal of $6,000 for computer software in Clerk’s budget. Council President Murphy stated she does not agree with another part-time employee in the Finance Office. Ms. Bright noted that the proposed finance budget with the part-time employee has decreased from the 2018 budget. Council Member Ooms suggested hiring a Deputy Tax Collector instead of a full-time Tax Clerk to assist in foreclosures and delinquent tax collections

Ms. Bright stated the Fund Balance is now over $2 million and $650,000 is anticipated to be added in the 2019 budget which is good for Moody’s rating for bonds. Mr. Voelker stated that the part-time employee in the Building Department was released and removed from budget. Council Member Ooms commented that the Recreation budget has increased and opined that taxpayers don’t stay in Vernon for the recreation programs but for low taxes. She added the tax increase is too high and suggested to decrease recreation salary and programs at this time.

Council Member Curreri questioned how base salaries were determined for positions and noted that each should have a data sheet from a reputable salary company to align with other municipalities.

Council Member Ooms questioned if three police vehicles are necessary this year. Council Member Ooms if Police vehicles could be retained longer by the Township. Mr. Voelker explained that if Vernon continues to add two vehicles per year to be used for front line use, then older vehicles will be cycled to other police duties such as school resource officer, special events, traffic duties, outside services, and detectives use. Newer vehicles are needed for the front line for reliability and low maintenance which are being used 24/7 by the shifts on duty. Council Member Ooms recommended 2019 only one be added to the rotation. Council President Murphy explained that the proposed leasing program may help with the rotation and free up DPW Mechanic’s time to work on truck fleet. Mr. Voelker added references will be done on Enterprise Leasing Program for feedback from other municipalities and if positive may even be expanded to the Fire Department Chief’s vehicles. Ms. Bright explained that it is not a regular lease, as Vernon would own the vehicle after the payments were made which would lead to better residual value. Council Member Auberger expressed his support of the program as long as DPW is satisfied with the program as it will save on maintenance time and gives Vernon opportunity to sell or keep vehicles at the end. He added the Police Department supports the program as it allows them to use the current vendor to install light packages.

Regarding Capital items, Council Member Auberger recommended to remove the Animal Control insulated doors, the DPW Leaf Box and the Lighting System on the Flats until another year. Council Member Van Tassel agreed to remove the Lighting System as the cost of $627,000 for two fields on the Flats is too high. Ms. Bright noted the two back turf fields are severely deteriorated and have been repaired to allow for limited spring use but will need to be replaced. She added the third turf field will have to be replace in 2021 for proposed cost of $500,000 which is included in new debt schedule and 2021 Bond Anticipation Note. Mr. Voelker commented that based on test results, the area near the goals was severely worse than middle area and regrooming will allow Vernon to get through the spring activities but replacement is unquestionable. Council Member Curreri noted that receivables from rental fees will be limited due to condition of fields. Mr. Voelker stated that until fields are replaced, rentals will be limited, and priority for use will be to current leagues in Vernon Township.

Mr. Voelker explained it is prudent to do the field replacement this year and the Engineer is currently creating the specifications for an RFP to be done in April. Council Member Ooms stated that the Council has not yet decided if this will be done this year as more information is needed. Ms. Bright explained that drafting the specifications, awarding the bid, and financing takes time for an educated decision.

Council Member Curreri also recommended to remove the Lighting system costing $627,000 at this time. The Council discussed the importance of going forward with the fencing at Maple Grange Park Playground for safety reasons. Council Member Van Tassel suggested adding a parking lot at the Basketball Courts.

Council President Murphy asked as to the status of the Wisteria property. Mr. Voelker explained the Attorneys have exchanged paperwork and 2016 title search needs to be updated and then the closing should be forthcoming.

Council President Murphy asked Members for any department budget suggestions. Council Member VanTassel questioned status of RFP for Landscaping services which Mr. Voelker stated is scheduled for April 2, 2019.

Council President Murphy stated she would type out her recommendations to Administration and would like to know final numbers of budget. Ms. Bright stated that the increases in the proposed 2019 budget were in Debt Service, Capital and RUT not in current expenses. Council Member Ooms recommended the budget be as low as possible. Mayor Shortway stated he must debrief with the CFO and Business Administrator to discuss Council’s concerns, finalize figures and get back to Council.

Recess

Council President Murphy asked for a motion for a short recess.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Jean Murphy
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to take a short recess at 6:19 p.m.

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to return to the meeting.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Jean Murphy
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to return to meeting at 6:21 p.m.

The Council discussed scheduling a Special Work session on Thursday March 28, 2019 at 4:00 pm to discuss the revised budget and provide their recommendations to the final figures. The Council confirmed that the CFO will provide the revised budget to Council by March 26, 2019 for review.

Council President Murphy asked if Township Auditor William Schroeder had any concerns with recommendations or timing of budget. Mr. Schroeder stated timing is close enough but good and he will review various options about the Reserve for Uncollected Taxes, Debt Service, and Capital items with the CFO and Mayor to decrease the budget. Ms. Bright added that any revenue from Mountain Creek will be unanticipated and put in next year’s fund balance. Mayor Shortway stated the Mountain Creek Agreement, the proposed Wastewater Treatment Station and the Greenway Trail System will increase revenue in coming years.

Council President Murphy asked Mr. Schroeder if T-Bills were permitted as a township investment. Mr. Schroeder explained they are permitted investments but that it depends on rate received. He added that Moody’s recommends a municipality Vernon’s size should have a Fund Balance of $10 million. Council President Murphy added the concern for short term Treasury notes of 4-week or 8-week is market fluctuation. Mr. Schroeder noted that Vernon had a good reduction in Health Benefits costs and with recalculation of the RUT, the Township should be able to decrease budget to an $80.00 increase.

Council President Murphy asked Mr. Schroeder if there are any restrictions for the Township and Board of Education to enter into a Shared Service Agreement for Payroll Services. Mr. Schroder explained there are no rules against, but it is not as prevalent to do so. Ms. Bright noted that Vernon currently does all reporting for the Pension deductions and enrollments along with tax deductions in house and expressed concern as CFO as it is her duty to certify the payroll information. Ms. Bright stated she was not comfortable with using an outside shared service. Council President Murphy noted the Board of Education should explore their health benefit provider to reduce costs. Ms. Bright commented she will be attending a liaison meeting with the Board of Education tonight to discuss budget items and how the rates affect all taxpayers.

Public Comments (On any topic, limited to 3 minutes per person)

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Jean Murphy
All members were in favor.

Seeing no members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Murphy asked for a motion to close the public portion of the meeting.
Motion: Jean Murphy
Second: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Council Comments

There were no further comments from any Council Member.

Adjournment

There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion for Adjournment was made by Council President Murphy seconded by Council Member Auberger with all members voting in favor.

The meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 6:38 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Lauren Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: April 22, 2019