8 February, 1984
Increases in Joint Agency Budgets Will Up Each Municipality’s Tax Bill
By Barbara L. Johnson
Midway through last Saturday’s joint budget session with members of Township Committee and Borough Council, Township Mayor Winthrop S. Pike interjected a comment. “Perhaps it is time to remind everyone we’ve done nothing this morning but add to this budget.”
Under review for the second straight Saturday morning work session were the budgets of the joint agencies of the Borough and Township. Many items that had been “flagged” the previous week for possible omission or alteration were reinstated — and in some instances even added to.
The Fire Department will be permitted to keep $10.000 from disconnecting no-longer-needed call boxes and to use the money for badly needed repair and maintenance of equipment. The Public Library will be open on Sundays, thanks in part to a municipal appropriation of $5,000 above the total amount recommended, by the two municipal administrators. And the Sewer Operating Committee may hire a crew of three to perform I & I inspections and repairs to the sewer system.
These and other line items in the joint agencies budgets will make themselves felt in the overall operating budget of each municipality, although in differing ratios. According to Township Administrator James Pascale, the Township budget, estimated last week to be some $8,000 over the five percent CAP, will either be $17,000 over that CAP figure, or $40,000 below a 6.5 percent CAP.
Under a 1983 revision of the CAP law, municipalities are given a choice of whether to use the minimum five percent figure or the percentage rate set forth in something called the Implicit Price Deflator for the preceding year. In 1984, that figure is 6.5 percent. Township Committee will meet this Saturday at 9:30 in the Valley Road Building meeting room to decide which CAP figure it will use and how it expects to pay for its share of the $1.2 million underbilling by the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority.
Mayor Winthrop S. Pike estimates that there will be a 3-5 cent rise In the municipal tax rate in the Township, to say nothing of the increases expected in school and county taxes. He cites greatly increased solid waste trucking costs as one of the factors contributing to a bigger municipal operating budget. With the closing of the Bordentown landfill which has accepted solid waste from both Princetons, trucks will be carting compacted garbage and other debris to Pennsylvania.
At last Saturday’s session, Township Committee agreed to fund a fire inspector at $3,000 on a trial basis. This amount is outside the caps and will be offset by fees charged for the inspections. Both governing bodies agreed to a fire consultant (in the capital budget) to assess the fire needs of both Borough and Township.
Money for fire police, a separate unit that handles traffic control during fires, was deferred, and it was agreed that fixing the sunken concrete apron in front of the Hook & Ladder Fire Co. should be capitalized. Firemen pointed out that the bucket of the big fire engine risks damage each time the truck is backed out because of the close clearance in the fire house and the differential between the sidewalk and the apron.
Library. Citing a history of municipal underfunding of the Public Library. Borough Committeeman John Huntoon made a lengthy pitch for an additional $35,000 for the Library. He pointed out that • although the total request may seem a lot, it costs a lot to run an excellent library.” In the budget prepared by the two administrators, the Library was granted an 18 percent increase over what it received in 1983, but Mr. Huntoon felt that was not enough to cover the additional books, cassettes and other items the library- needed.
Mayor Pike countered by asking. “Where do we get the $35,000? What account do we take it from?” Mr. Huntoon proposed
deleting the professional planner at a savings of $17,500 for
half a year, but other members of Committee and Council were firmly committed to having a planner. They voted additional monies for the Planning Board for supplies in anticipation of his services, at the same time subtracting from the funds for outside planning consultant services.
In addition to Sunday hours, the library gained $10,000 for repairs and maintenance to the roof and windows but not $5,000 for replacement of a section of carpet not replaced last year.
Sewer Repair. Sanitary Engineer George Olexa made a pitch for in-house survey and repair of sewer lines by three men to be hired by the SOC. He said there had never been a progressive study made to define the problem on a continuing basis. The SOC staff was allowed to deplete by attrition after the Brokaw Report was completed, he said, and the new crew would be assembling valuable information about the system while also making some repairs as needed.
He estimated that in 18 months the crew would know if the magnitude of the problem j and whether it will cost $15 million or $30 million. Dwight C O. North said that hiring three people “at the very least” was a sound proposition, but he added, “To think the problem can only be done in-house is perfectly ridiculous. We need a huge outside firm working hard to get this thing done.” Mr. North also reiterated his call for a bond issue as the only sensible way to address the job.”
“I think these (governing) bodies are prepared to bite the bullet.’’ Committeeman Richard Schoch told him. The consensus seemed to be that an outside contractor and in-house survey and repair work were not mutually exclusive, but that it was perhaps premature to bring on the outside consultant before some of the survey work was undertaken.
The discussion caused Councilman Richard Woodbridge to search his memory and come up with an old saying: “If you can’t do everything at once, you ought to do one thing at once.” It seemed particularly appropriate to all the Township and Borough budget deliberations.