Minutes: March 9, 2020*

YouTube video of the March 9, 2020 special workshop meeting »

The special workshop meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 5:00 p.m. on March 9, 2020 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 4, 2020 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, Jean Murphy, Mark Van Tassel, Kelley Weller and Council President Shortway. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and CFO Donelle Bright.

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: Mark Van Tassel
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: Kelly Weller
Second: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Items for Discussion

Council Comments and Recommendation (2020 Budget)

Mayor Burrell commented that the budget discussions have focused on the compensation equalization adjustment of salaries. He said that we have a small staff and it is important that they serve the public in the most efficient and effective manner. Mayor Burrell does not want employees to leave. 90% of the staff are Vernon residents. Many of our employee's salaries are significantly below the average in New Jersey. These employees are trained, have skills and certifications and can work anywhere.

Mayor Burrell wants to get the budget passed so the town can move forward with the projects we need to do. He is willing to compromise and he knows the Council has mentioned 3% or 4% pay raises.

Mayor Burrell said the mistakes in the budget have been corrected and a new package was sent to the Council to reflect the corrections. These changes reflect a $61.00 increase. Mayor Burrell explained that we used more of our fund balance to reduce borrowing.

Council President Shortway commented that if Legends paid their 2019 tax bill which is approximately $724,000 the increase would be $3.00. Legends owes the town a total of $2,700,000. Council President Shortway would like to discuss Legends with the Council to see what can be done to make Legends pay what they owe the town.

Mayor Burrell mentioned Legends liquor license has been kept in pocket for the last twelve years and this is a huge disadvantage for the town. The town is challenging the NJ State liquor licensing laws. Legends is finally starting to pay attention to the town. Mayor Burrell said something needs to be done to get the money that is owed to us from Legends.

Council Member Murphy feels that increasing the find balance in not the answer. Council Member Murphy said the police budget cannot be cut. She feels that when the police go to school they are not changing positions. Council Member Murphy mentioned the equalization chart of salaries that municipal employees earn around the state, and she feel that not all municipalities participate in this. She also said that we do not know how long the employees have been certified. Council Member Murphy commented that school administration salaries have no correlation to municipal salaries. Administration gave a list to the Council of the PBA, ASCME and non-contractual employees raises, steps and longevity, this is all contractual and their raises are 1 1/2 %. Council Member Murphy said that you cannot take an employee's longevity pay, promotion or step and capitalize on that.

Mayor Burrell asked the Council what percentage they are willing to settle on to move on.

Council Member Murphy said 2% for all employees.

Council Member Auberger commented saying that this is still money that is coming out of the tax payer's pockets. Every percentage that the raises are bumped up is still being paid by the tax payers.

Mayor Burrell would like to have a budget to present to the tax payers and he will be happy with what the Council votes on as far as the raises.

Council Member Murphy said that when employees are hired, they negotiated salaries and that is what they were hired at the negotiated salaries.

Council Member Murphy mentioned a stipend an employee received for $1836.00. She said this was not approved by the council and the position was not created by ordinance.

Council President Shortway made a motion to give a 4% raise increase to the Municipal Clerk, Chief Financial Officer, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, Land Use Administrator, Recreation/Senior Director, DPW Supervisor, Fire Marshall, Payroll Clerk, Court Administrator and Zoning Officer, seconded by Council Member Van Tassel.

Moved: Harry Shortway
Second: Mark Van Tassel

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Van Tassel, Weller, Shortway
Nays: Murphy
Abstain:
Absent:

Motion carried to approve 4% raise increases to the Municipal Clerk, Chief Financial Officer, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, Land Use Administrator, Recreation/Senior Director, DPW Supervisor, Fire Marshall, Payroll Clerk, Court Administrator and Zoning Officer.

Council Member Auberger would like to see the Police Department get the message trailer board in the Capital Budget which is in great need. He would also like to see money taken out of Capital to go towards paying down debt.

The Council discussed the pump track and the trail and where the funds for this were going to be allocated from. Council Member Murphy feels that if the funds are allocated for this already then the funds should not be spent elsewhere.

Council Member Murphy asked if a part time clerk was hired in the Finance Department before the budget was passed.

Council Member Auberger asked why the Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Historic Preservation Commission's budgets increased.

Mayor Burrell explained that the Historic Preservation Commission requested two historic plaques. The Mayor also explained that the budget was raised for the Economic Development Committee because he would like the Economic Development Committee to develop a portfolio and website to help promote the town and bring in business. The Economic Development Committee is also working on a plan to instruct businesses on the steps to open a business in the town.

Council Member Murphy asked how many hours the employees work and how long are their lunches and breaks. She also asked if the employees have started their classes yet even though the budget has not been passed.

Council Member Weller asked why do the raises have to be 4%. She would like to know why raises are not given out according to performance.

Council President Shortway recommended that in the future performance evaluations should be done.

Township Administrator Voelker explained that union employees have representation and contracts. The Township has a small percentage of employees who do not have an opportunity to negotiate. They have no step increases or longevity, therefore to not give them pay increases across the board is not usually done in Municipal Government.

Council Member Auberger asked about the $50,000 allocated to park improvements. He would like to know if it is pavers or asphalt being used on the walkways.

CFO Bright explained that this is for the extension for the ADA walkways. She explained that the town received a large variation of quotes and she put $50,000 away for this.

Council Member Murphy asked about the pay raises for union employees. She also said she would like to see the stipend removed for the Domestic Violence Policy because the position does not exist and the Council never approved the stipend.

Council Member Auberger commented that the BOE would like to talk about some shared services with the Township.

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

Council President Shortway 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 Shortway 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

None

Council President Comments

None

Mayor’s Comments

None

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 6:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: March 30, 2020