Minutes: March 3, 2021*

YouTube video of the March 3, 2021 council meeting »

The special workshop meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 2:00 p.m. on March 3, 2021 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Harry Shortway presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on February 28, 2021 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. Official Action may be taken.

Roll Call

Present were Council Members John Auberger, Toni Cilli, Andrew Pitsker and Council President Shortway. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and CFO Donelle Bright. Council Member Weller was not present.

Salute to the Flag

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

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

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

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

Mayor Burrell opened the meeting by saying, Mr. Council President and other Council Members, during this budget meeting we will be reviewing the proposed budget in some detail - - that is, from the prospective of each municipal department.

But before we do, I want to share with you, and those members of the public who have joined us in this meeting, plus those who will view this meeting via the recording that will be posted on our town’s website, the overall focus of this budget and the areas within our municipal government where the overwhelming majority of these budgeted tax dollars will be spent.

OVERALL FOCUS OF THE PROPOSED 2021 MUNICIPAL BUDGET: This year’s budget has been developed with a focus on the achievement of six key goals. Those six key goals are:

1. To maintain the level of services that our town is required to provide, or has committed to providing, while at the same time looking for areas where we can operate in a more effective and efficient way.

2. To have the funds to continue our ongoing road improvement program, and to replace, in an efficient and financially responsible manner, town vehicles and equipment that’s beyond their useful life.

3. To continue to pay down our debt and create a pay-as-you-go system for most capital expenses.

4. To continue to make repairs and improvements to township properties so as to avoid even larger improvement costs in the future.

5. To Move Vernon Forward towards continuing to be the type of town that’s a good place to live and raise a family, as well as a place where businesses want to locate and prosper. And ...

6. To minimize current and future tax burdens on Vernon taxpayers as we deal with the negative economic impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As our residents know from dealing with their personal household finances, every year the cost of most things increase; and that same cost increase principal applies to all of the things related to operating an effective and efficient municipal government.

And it is for this reason that we put a lot of planning and effort into keeping any increase in this year’s municipal budget to a single digit percent.

The municipal staff started with my direction that they look for cost savings in every departmental line item. I am pleased to report, that in spite of a significant increase in our statutorily required Social Security and Pension payments for retired municipal regular workers and police personnel; and a continued large amount in our budget as a Reserve for Uncollected Taxes, we were successful.

This year’s municipal budget, as it is proposed, totals $28,079,805.97, and is up just 2% or 500K$ from last year’s budget.

As a way of measuring the financial impact of this proposed municipal budget on our town’s taxpayers, the municipal portion of the tax on the average Vernon home, which is assessed at a value of $206,351, will be $90 per year, or $7 per month.

WHERE THE MAJORITY OF TAX DOLLARS WILL BE SPENT:

Just seven categories account for 76%, or almost 80%, of the total dollars in this budget.

Those seven categories are:

1. The category that covers the cost of our Police, Radio Communications and Animal Control needs. At 5M$, this category covers 18% of the total budget.

2. The category that covers our payments into our Infrastructure Capital Improvement Fund, and Payment on the Town’s Debt. At 4.8M$, this category covers 17% of the total budget.

3. The category that covers our payments for our employees’ Medical, Unemployment, Workers Compensation, and Other Insurance. At 3.3M$, this category covers 12% of the total budget.

4. The category that covers the amount of funds that sound accounting practices require that we add to our budget to cover the dollar amount of taxes that our experience tells us that we are not likely to collect during the given budget year. Our 2020 tax collection rate was 96%, and the dollar amount that we are required to include in this year’s budget as a Reserve for Uncollected Taxes is 3.1M$, or 11% of the total budget.

5. The category that covers our payments for Road Repairs & Maintenance, our Building & Grounds and Parks Maintenance, and our Recycling Center & Fleet Management. At 2.7M$ this category covers 10% of the total budget.

6. The category that covers our Statutory Obligations, such as Social Security, Retirements & Defined Contribution Payments, plus Reimbursements that the Town is required by law to pay to Private Lake and other Private Communities under the Municipal Services Act, better known as the Kelly Bill. At 2.5M$, this category covers 8% of the total budget. And ...

7. The category that covers our Contractual SCUMA Sewer Payments and our Municipal Utilities. At 2.5M$, this category also covers 8% of the total budget.

As you can see, this is a very financially conservative budget that’s prepared to cover the town’s real needs, and not some unreal wants.

Items for Discussion

a. Department of Public Works Budget
b. Police - Animal Control Budget
c. Office of Emergency Management Budget
d. Fire Prevention/Volunteer Emergency Services Budget
e. Tax Assessor Budget
f. Tax Collector Budget
g. Land Use Budget
h. Court Budget
i. Recreation/Senior Center Budget
j. Building/Construction Budget
k. Municipal Clerk Budget
l. Finance Department/Audit Budget
m. Administration Budget
n. Mayor - Council Budget
o. Commission/Committees Budget
p. Legal Services, Engineering, Technology Budget
q. Insurance Budget
r. Shared Services/Grants Budget
s. Utilities Budget
t. Statutory Contributions Budget
u. Trust Appropriations Budget
v. Capital, Debt Service and Reserve for Uncollected Taxes Budget

The above-named departments individually presented their 2021 municipal budgets. The Township Council and the individual departments discussed the budgets with CFO Donelle Bright and Mayor Howard Burrell. Questions were asked and answered.

At 4:28 pm a motion was made by Council Member Auberger to take a 2-minute recess, seconded by Council Member Pitsker. All Were in Favor.

A motion was made by Council Member Auberger to close the recess, seconded by Council Member Pitsker. All were in favor.

Public Comments (Limited to 3 Minutes On Any Topic)

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

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

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 Pitsker with all members voting in favor.

The Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 5:28 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: March 22, 2021