Township Budget Introduced, Road Projects, Sidewalks Survive

Vornlocker 4-8-141

Township manager Bob Vornlocker told the Township Council April 8 that several changes had been made to the budget, but they did not affect the overall numbers.

A partisan debate over new sidewalks and road resurfacing projects punctuated the introduction of the 2014 budget at the April 8 Township Council meeting.

But when the dust settled, the proposed $57 million spending plan – which calls for a 3.6 percent increase in the amount to be raised by taxes – was introduced.

Mayor Brian Levine, the lone Republican on the governing body, unsuccessfully tried to trim proposed allocations for road resurfacing projects and the installation of new sidewalks.

“There are some things we can’t afford,” Levine said.

Levine proposed cutting in half the $2.5 million allocation for road projects and eliminating the $750,000 allocation for new sidewalks.

“It’s too preliminary,” Levine said. “I don’t want to vote on the sidewalks yet. It’s not that I’m against sidewalks, I just don’t know if the people want them.”

Members of the all-Democratic council pounced on the sidewalks issue.

“Sidewalks do promote safety,” Deputy Mayor Brian Regan (D-At Large) said. “Sidewalks are needed around our schools.”

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) said he would “put sidewalks where they make sense.”

“This is a public safety issue, and we need to address it,” said Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large). ”

Prasad said that at $750,000, the program was “woefully underfunded.”

“There are people walking in the streets,” he said.

Speaking in favor of the road projects allocation, Councilman Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3) said the township would have saved about $40,000 in pothole repair costs after the winter storms if all of the roads had been in better shape.

“Twenty four percent of the roads took 80 percent of the pothole repair expense,” he said.

When the roll was called, the only member who supported Levine’s motion was Levine.

Earlier, Kramer was equally as unsuccessful in his attempt to remove a half-time Geographic Information Systems position that carries a $23,000 price tag. Half of the salary would be borne by the township water department.

Kramer also expressed frustration over the public library board’s refusal to consider merging their Information Technology position with the township’s, a move Kramer said could save the board $10,000.

The library board’s $2.9 million budget is included in the township’s.

Objecting to the idea, Councilman Ted Chase, (D-Ward 1) said the department needs more people and that those there now may leave if they don’t get help.

The motion failed, with only Kramer and Councilman Carl R.A. Wright (D-Ward 4) voting for it.

Township manager Bob Vornlocker told the council a few things had been changed in the budget, but the final numbers were not affected.

  • The township’s pension plan premium is going to cost $265,000 less than expected, he said.
  • He also said a $100,000 county recycling grant had been inadvertently left out of the budget.
  • On the negative side, the township must pay a $360,000 shortfall in the Joint Insurance Fund over the next 10 years, at $36,000 a year.
  • The township also has to pay $10,000 for an engineering study, he said.

Levine cast the only “no” vote on the budget’s introduction.

A quick look at the budget numbers:

  • The proposed $56,899,422.55 total budget created by Vornlocker – which includes the Franklin Public Library’s $2,939,530.98 budget – is about 2 percent more than last year’s spending plan.
  • The budget is driven by a tax levy of $36,299,128.98, of which $33,359,598 is the municipal portion and $2,939,530.98 is the library’s portion. That’s an overall 3.6 percent increase over last year’s tax levy, and translates to a local portion tax of .373 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
  • Under the proposed budget, the owner of a home assessed at $306,058 – the township’s average – would pay a local portion tax of $1,141.60.
  • Add to that the $101 library portion and $153.03 open space portion, and the total municipal tax bill for that average assessed home would be $1,395.62, a $9.93 increase over last year’s figure.

The budget’s public hearing will be held during the council’s first May meeting.

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