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Township Council Hears First Details Of ‘Boring’ Budget

The Township Council held a virtual budget hearing on March 2.

There were no shocks or surprises in the first hearing for the 2021 township budget, something for which township officials were thankful.

The majority of the 18 or so departments that presented their funding asks were either flat from last year or had decreases.

Some departments’ requests reflected a belief that the COVID-19 pandemic would be mitigated during the year.

Only three departments – the Tax Assessor, Purchasing and Construction departments – showed any significant increase, and one, the Planning and Zoning boards and planning department, showed a $16,000 decrease from last year.

Rick Carabelli, the Tax Assessor, is asking for $25,000 more than last year in his $122,500 proposed budget, mainly because of an anticipated need for tax assessors for property assessment challenges.

Last year’s budget for professional services was $75,000; Carabelli is asking for $100,000 this year.

Carabelli told the Council that the coronavirus pandemic has slowed court proceedings, but that could change during the year.

“If things break loose this year, I think we’re going to exceed last year’s budgeted amount, which is why we’re asking for $100,000,” he said.

“We’re pretty much at the mercy of the courts … so it’s pretty hard to nail it down, but I’m pretty confident that $100,000 will do it for 2021 … especially since we’re two months into the year, and we haven’t had a lot of activity,” he said.

The Purchasing department’s proposed budget is $98,040, up $8,600 from last year.

Purchasing Agent Cindy Belanger said the increase was due to a jump in the maintenance contract for a mail machine.

A hike in software licensing costs for the Construction Department was blamed for the $19,336 increase in the budget proposed by Vince Lupo. Lupo’s budget proposal was for $389,220.

The Planning Department’s budget is $16,000 lighter than the 2020 version, due mainly to the fact that consultants used for part of the Master Plan review are no longer needed, township Principal Planner Mark Healey told the Council.

Costs for the township’s group health insurance decreased by $19,000 from last year, Human Resources Officer Raven Williams told the Council.

The reason, she said, was “we had a decrease in the budgeted amount for disability insurance for employees, $115,000 to $85,000, and that’s where the majority of the decrease occurred.”

At one point during the hearing Mayor Phil Kramer called the budget “boring,” and said he was happy to do so.

“Council indicated to the manager that because of COVID, we would like to not have a tax increase,” Kramer said. “That’s why this budget is so boring.”

“It’s somewhat like the movie Groundhog Day, where it seems like we’ve done this before,” Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said. “I don’t know that the year 2020 is a good comparison for any other year in history. There are certain things where we had costs that were much higher than in previous years, and certain costs that were non-existent, and that’s because of the way government ran for just about the entire year.”

The next budget hearing will include the bigger departments, such as the police, public works and information technology, as well as capital requests.

That hearing is set for 7 p.m. on March 10.

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