Minutes: March 28, 2019*

Township Council Special Meeting

Call to Order

The special meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, 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 20, 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 (Bud) Jones.

Salute to the Flag

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

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: Sandra Ooms
Second: John Auberger
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: Mark Van Tassel
Second: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Items for Discussion

Council Recommendations

Council Member Ooms started budget discussion by inquiring if Vernon will continue to receive funds from SECTV since it was not added to the budget. Ms. Bright explained funds received by SECTV are not put in budget and will be miscellaneous revenue not anticipated and noted that in 2018, Vernon received $77,648.00.

Council President Murphy questioned where the taxes that were paid by Legends is indicated in the budget. Ms. Bright explained part of the anticipated delinquent taxes is in the Revenue section but is not itemized by taxpayer and noted she can only anticipate amount that was received in last year.

Council Member Ooms questioned why the Shared Services line was increased. Ms. Bright explained the Shared Services agreement with the MUA for Finance Purchasing Services is increased by $25,000 and the DPW Services is increased by $8,000.00 to cover the maintenance of vehicles. Ms. Bright explained that the budget also has been revised based on the recommendations recently received by the Council and Administration.

Council Member Ooms asked why the grant revenue amount increased. Ms. Bright explained updated amounts were received by the Police Department and a Joint Insurance Fund grant was awarded to Vernon for purchase of water barricades. Council Member Ooms referred to capital budget and questioned how many cat cages were being purchased for $300.00. Ms. Bright explained the funds will be used for permanent structures, not the small carrier, in the Animal Shelter. Council Member Ooms questioned where the funds will come from to construct the bandshell. Ms. Bright commented the funds would need to be bonded and Mayor Shortway added he requested Council to form an Open Space Subcommittee to look for financing of the bandshell as an amenity to the Trail System. He added his vision of the Bandshell should be named after former Council Member Dan Kadish to honor his legacy. Council President Murphy noted that Council is only reviewing the $4,000 for engineering services for the bandshell at this time.

Council President Murphy opined that the proposed budget amount is an increase of $13.44/month for the average home of $215,000.00 which was decreased significantly as requested, but thinks more can be done. She added with County, Board of Education and the MUA all proposing increases in 2019, and questioned how much can the taxpayers bear.

The Council requested information about the Enterprise Purchase Program for DPW and Police vehicles. Ms. Bright explained the program will analyze our fleet needs based on mileage and usage and create a lease to purchase plan for vehicles with a 4-year for Police or 5-year for DPW rotating schedule. The Program will reduce long term maintenance costs, increase reliability of vehicles, and allows the Township to make payments. Ms. Bright explained the DPW Fleet Personnel will continue to do maintenance, but that the program will reduce costs for larger repair items. Council President Murphy added that DPW personnel will be meeting with existing users of the program and report back to Administration to see if the program will be beneficial for Vernon.

Council President Murphy commented that Mr. Voelker had advised the Council regarding the salary range ordinance and about a situation where employees did not receive increases for four years. Council President Murphy asked if he knew the history. Council President Murphy explained that on July 1, 2011, a new form of government began and approved a salary ordinance with ranges. A petition was submitted suspending the ordinance until results of ballot question were tallied, which failed resulting in employees unable to receive any increases for two years. Council President Murphy warned Mr. Voelker that a petition could occur at any time. Mr. Voelker responded that there is a news article noting that Vernon is not unique in that situation and noted that “salary inversion” exists as demand is higher than supply in certain positions. He added that employers must work to retain good employees through a positive workplace and do their best with salary ranges as enrichment is a determining factor. Council President Murphy commented that Council must also work for the taxpayers and are faced with prior administration’s actions, which are not the employee’s fault.

Council Member Auberger questioned if the budget denoted the specific increases to employees who have recently received Certification, specifically in DPW. Ms. Bright explained that in the DPW budget, the salaries for all administrative employees are combined but noted an increase is included. Council Member Curreri expressed surprise that Vernon Township hasn’t hired a compensation professional to set ranges and noted that Vernon outsources far less important things than setting of salaries. Council President Murphy noted that Vernon is a Civil Service town and many positions cannot be touched. She added that positions and salaries are a moving target as elected officials and administrations may change them.

Mr. Voelker noted that since Mayor Shortway took office, salaries have been kept at a reasonable low to mid-level, with decreased salary budgets and reinforced that the ranges should not be of large concern. Council President Murphy commented that salaries have decreased due to retirements which is favorable to the taxpayers and noted that adjusting the salary ranges has no bearing of what an employee is actually paid. Mr. Voelker added that some employees viewed the decreased salary ranges in recent proposed Ordinance bothersome, a definite issue with morale and some opined the Ordinance was directed at positions held be women. Council Member Ooms questioned why employees would feel slighted. Mr. Voelker explained the decreased range has taken away the possibility of increases. Council President Murphy stated that Administration presented in 2018 a Salary Ordinance based on a five-year plan to incorporate increases for a five-year period. She added that back in 2014, every time an employee reached a salary ceiling, the Township always raised it and subsequently raised the bottom bar. Council Member Curreri commented that essentially ranges are meaningless. Council Member Auberger commented that salary ordinances can be discussed at a future time.

Council President Murphy commented that Administration decreased the proposed budget as requested but would like to see if it can be improved. Council Member Auberger requested the lights at Veterans memorial Park be removed but noted the importance of paying down the debt of past administrations as soon as possible. Council Member Ooms questioned where in the budget is the increase for the employee that received their certification listed. Council Member Auberger also questioned if funds were included in the budget for the people who received Certifications after the salary ordinance was adopted. Council Member Ooms commented she needs the salary information before voting on the budget and requested a breakdown of salaries from all departments for employees receiving more than 2%.

Council Member Auberger stated, per a previous conversation with DPW, it is important to fill the need of the proper grooming equipment to maintain the turf fields whether they are replaced or repaired to obtain the maximum life. Mr. Voelker explained that the Council approved the funds for the Township Engineer to explore the needs of the fields and to preserve the maximum life. Council President Murphy noted that the DPW Leaf Box has been left in the budget. No further comments were made by any Council Members.

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: 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 public portion of the meeting.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Mark Van Tassel
All members were in favor.

Council Comments

Council President Murphy asked Administration to email the requested information about salary increases. Council Member Ooms noted that not all employees are listed in the proposed budget. Ms. Bright explained that after reviewing past budgets, the Police and DPW employees were never listed as most are contractual but all salaries are included in the total dollar amount. Mayor Shortway commented that the request for all employee salaries has never been asked in the past years but will follow up as requested.

Ms. Bright questioned if Council needs another worksession before introducing. Council President Murphy commented that the decrease to $80.00 is great but opined there is still room to lower budget. Mr. Voelker commented that Administration gave the Council exactly what they requested, from $160 to $80.00 which took much work to achieve. Council Member Auberger stated the Township has the responsibility to pay the debt down. Council President Murphy and Council Member Ooms commented they are not aware of what is in the budget and require the breakdown as requested.

Council and Administration agree to add the Introduction of the 2019 Budget to the April 8, 2019 agenda and further discussion can be done at that time. Ms. Bright explained if needed, amendments can be made and thanked the Auditors for attending meeting. Mr. Schroeder commented the budget was great but there was debt service that required payment. Mr. Schroeder explained that any further reduction in the budget would require that items be cut on the expenditure side. Council President Murphy agreed that expenditures need to be reviewed further.

Adjournment

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

The meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Lauren Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: April 22, 2019