All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.
Minutes: February 21, 2009
A work session of the Randolph Township Council was called to order at 8:30 a.m. by Mayor Metz. This meeting is held pursuant to the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act. Adequate notice of the meeting has been provided by posting written notice of the time, date, location and, to the extent known, the agenda of the meeting in Randolph Township. This notice was posted on the Bulletin Board within Town Hall, it was filed with the Township Clerk, and it was provided to those persons or entities requesting notification. Notice was also provided to the Randolph Reporter on January 21, 2009, by emailing them the Special Meeting Notice. The Special Meeting Notice, which included this meeting date, was advertised in the Randolph Reporter, the official newspaper of the Township of Randolph, on January 29, 2009.
Councilwoman Price (departed at 9:20 a.m.)
Deputy Mayor Alpert
ABSENT: Councilwoman Mitsch
Also Present: Township Manager John Lovell
Mayor Metz led the Pledge of Allegiance.
OPEN TO PUBLIC
Judith Stewart, 114 Everdale Road, stated her objection to the time of this meeting. The Board of Education had already scheduled their Saturday session for this same day. She suggested better communication between Town Hall and the Board of Education when scheduling such meetings so that more residents could attend both.
Seeing no one further from the public, the public portion was closed.
COUNCIL AND MANAGER REPORTS
Manager Lovell stated that the Board of Education budget is being hit very hard by the levy cap on the tax rate. They will be taking their cap to the maximum, which is a 7 cent increase on taxation. Even with that, the Board is looking at reductions in staff and cutbacks in many areas while raising revenues with fees associated with certain programs.
2009 MUNICIPAL BUDGET DISCUSSION
Manager Lovell introduced several department heads in attendance: Chief Mason, Mike Soccio, Bill Kerwick, and John Van Brunt. They will be providing budget information later in the meeting.
The Manager noted that the State of New Jersey has not yet released state aid figures and there is a pension bill before the legislature that has not been finalized. Therefore, the budget that he is presenting could be inaccurate in a few days as more information comes forth, but he felt it was time to at least begin the process. Comments from the Manager’s budget message include the following:
- Randolph continues the tradition of falling below both the levy cap, which is a cap on the tax rate, as well as the appropriations cap
- The Council has been very conservative in its fiscal approach on tax appeals for the last two years and it has been handled in a responsible fashion
- He projects there is a light at the end of the tunnel regarding future tax appeals
- The proposed budget calls for $516,000.00 to be set aside for tax appeals
- The Township collects taxes for the Board of Education, Morris County, and the municipal government
- The Manager does not support the Governor’s plan to defer pension payments, which would not be a voluntary program
- Money could be reserved in a separate account to offset future additional interest costs associated with deferring pension payments
- Over the past couple of years there has been a reduction in staff due to attrition and other part time positions have been scaled back in an effort to reduce costs
- The Police Department will be budgeted this year with 40 sworn officers, a reduction of one with the retirement of the former chief
- The Engineering Department was brought under the Office of the Manager and Public Works became a stand-alone entity
- An Assistant Director to Public Works was hired in lieu of replacing a Water Superintendent position, creating depth of management for the entire operation
- The Road Overlay Program for 2009 will change this year with the use of short term notes
- Total operations for the year are up about 1.24 percent
- The overall budget is down about 2.1 percent
- Revenue in 2008 was better than expected
- At the moment, a tax increase is not expected with this budget, however that could change once the numbers from Trenton come in
- Water and sewer operations are not funded through taxes, they are stand-alone entities paid for by users of the systems
- The water and sewer budgets are in good shape
- The sewer budget will fund the Butterworth sewer and the Mt. Freedom sewer projects
- The water budget will fund the Mt. Freedom water storage tank restoration and the installation of a booster pump
The Manager challenged the Council to consider the following aspects when reviewing and deciding on the budget:
- Will this action compound or increase the tax rate next year
- How does the value of the reduction compare with the expectations placed on the Township by the public
- If this expenditure is deferred for a year, can the organization catch up in the future
- Will this decision make Randolph a stronger town in five years
The Manager expressed his belief that this Council has always looked many years into the future when making the difficult decisions for the good of the community as opposed to political expedience.
The Manager then began a review of the proposed budget. His comments included the following:
- The numbers used to prepare the budget remain flat based on the level of aid received last year
- The fund balance sheet shows all accounts are relatively healthy
- Sewer reserves seems large, but money has been accruing for many years in anticipation of funding the Butterworth and Mt. Freedom projects
- Payments for the Butterworth Interceptor project will be coming to an end shortly, and it may be possible after that to adjust the water rate
- Currently there is a budget increase of 1.24 percent and expenditures are down a little over 2 percent, however these numbers will likely change and the information from Trenton becomes available
- The trial vaccine clinic did not enjoy the success hoped for in 2008, however the Manager has budgeted for it for one more year
- More construction fees are being generated due to an increase in the fee schedule
- More income is being generated in Recreation
- Randolph enjoys good stability in tax collections
- The proposed budget shows a decrease in the reserve based upon the assumption of tax appeals
- Randolph had very modest growth in property assessed valuation in 2008, however it is not none how Randolph will fare in 2009
- More funds are being currently put into surplus as compared to last year, however that is expected to change
- Some older debt is being retired, but newer debt is coming on albeit at a slightly lower interest rate, thereby keeping the debt level even
- Money will be borrowed to undertake the road overlay program
- Randolph has come through a very difficult time financially on the tax appeal situation because of the Council’s conservative planning
Bill Kerwick, the Director of Public Works, provided an overview of his department, which included the following comments:
- There are presently 30 full time employees efficiently and effectively maintaining approximately 147 miles of road as well as the buildings and establishments in Randolph
- No major changes expected to the operational end of the budget
- The biggest change will likely be in the recycling budget because of tipping costs
- He will aggressively try to find markets that will give Randolph the best value
- Fleet maintenance numbers are down for 2009
- The storage buildings at the DPW yard have extended the life expectancy of the vehicles stored there
- There is an effort to either refurbish vehicles or purchase them as a shared services vehicle
- Improvements to the DPW yard include the installation of two waste oil heaters
- There continues to be an inability to keep up with vehicle repairs due to a cut in manpower made in 2004
- There is a need to stay aggressive with the road overlay and maintenance programs
- There is a desire to purchase a crack sealer truck to assist in the maintenance aspect
- A proposed wash-bay facility plan has been revised to refurbish one of the stand-alone buildings with an oil/water separator and two tanks to filter the water, bringing the cost from approximately $250,000.00 to $30,000.00
- This revision will also likely enhance the salt water brine system used during snow storms
- The addition of a byproduct to the brine system will allow for spreading the brine at a much lower temperature, increasing efficiency and further lowering salt costs
- Water and sewer operations are very efficient
- Two projects for 2009 are the water tank cleanup and a booster pump station on Overlook
- There is a proposal to outfit all vehicles with a GPS system, which will allow close monitoring of vehicle speed, idling time, use of fuel, etc.
- The installation of a radio-read system for water meters has been completed which allows for more accuracy
- At some point, money will need to be spent in upgrading some of the water distribution areas
- There has been a reduction in the leaf hauling numbers
- There is one open position in the road department that he has not filled and will wait to see what the numbers are from Trenton to either fill that position or not
Chief Mason provided a brief overview of his department, and his comments included the following:
- The police department functions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- In 2008 the department handled over 42,000 activities, including calls, arrests, and motor vehicle stops
- The department currently has 40 sworn officers, however one officer is out of disability and three officers are currently unavailable for full time duty due to injuries
- There are increased demands from the Attorney General’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office for mandated training
- Restrictions and guidelines have been implemented for interviews and line-ups which create further time demands on the officers and a cost to the department
- It is the Chief’s view that the department has branched out in a number of different directions over the years, which has spread resources thin
- It is his goal to re-focus the department back to its law enforcement function of service to the community and criminal investigations
- There needs to be improvement to the case management system
- Accreditation is at a critical point
- Focus on the development of policies and procedures
- Other than manpower, the most important aspect of the police department is its patrol vehicles
- There are currently 22 vehicles and the chief is looking to downsize that number in order to generate more revenue to be put back into the department
- The chief is keeping an eye on the County communications center, however it appears to be a number of years away at this time for various reasons
- The new communications center in Town Hall is up and running and will be compatible with any future County dispatch initiative
- There is an absolute need to restructure the police department
- The chief would like to implement a second in command position to coordinate the efforts of the three lieutenants to have consistency in the organization
- An automatic finger-printing system, digital photography, and evidence management system have been implemented over the past couple of years and have been very successful
- Crime scene processing has been outsourced to the County
- The chief has requested an additional $4,500.00 for an alternate crossing guard
- There is a request for $2,500.00 to install a number of stop signs at certain intersections
- There is a recommendation from the Traffic Safety Bureau and the Traffic Advisory Committee to purchase a portable speed sign
- The Chief is in discussions with the state regarding taking over the maintenance of street lights along Route 10
Manager Lovell emphasized that Chief Mason did not prepare the budget for his department. It was prepared by former Chief Kazaba. The Manager reported that courtroom security is changing. The two guards used by Randolph have left their positions for health reasons, and those positions have been advertised and are in the process of being filled. The judge has requested a third part time security officer, and that is not currently reflected in the budget.
The Manager noted that $10,000.00 has been put in the budget to be used to hire an attorney to assist Chief Mason as he does an in-house rewrite of police regulations concerning continuing education.
The Manager noted that the Rescue Squad falls under the supervision of Chief Mason. The squad seems to be functioning well. There was a problem with the Captain’s vehicle, and the Rescue Squad will fund those repairs independently. There will be regulations placed on the use of that vehicle in the future and the Manager will require that those regulations be adopted by the entire Rescue Squad. The purchase of a new ambulance has been deferred since the vehicles are being used only half as much as they used to be since daytime service has been farmed out to the private sector. The Rescue Squad is currently constructing a new building that is being funded entirely by revenue raised from an antenna tower on their property.
Councilman Algeier thanked the Rescue Squad for taking responsibility for the damage to the captain’s vehicle.
John Van Brunt, the Director of Parks, Recreation, and Community Services, provided a brief overview of his department, which included the following comments:
- The Recreation department generated more revenue than ever before in 2008
- Many programs are now self-sustaining that hadn’t been before
- Randolph Park Beach fees hit record highs
- The summer camp programs, although economical, make money
- A new initiative this year is taking a 44 percent reduction on what the department gives to sports programs in tax support which will be offset by incoming revenue
- Brundage Park Playhouse made $18,000.00 and is on track for repaying the capital for the expansion
- The OE portion of the budget will remain relatively flat for 2009
Councilman Obremski asked for a list of improvements to the parks provided by the various recreation booster clubs.
Manager Lovell noted that the maintenance of the library is declining slightly. This is due to the fact that Randolph’s equalized ratables are not increasing. The library has been setting money aside that will fund their own capital improvements.
The Manager made the following comments to close the discussion on the budget:
- The Manager suggested approaching the Library Board of Trustees about contributing towards the roof replacement in preparation for the installation of solar panels
- There has been no determination yet as to the Echo Lane reconstruction issue
- Last year the Manager implemented a policy that put an end to non-essential idling of township vehicles, and there has been a decline in all areas of fuel consumption
- The new fuel system can track who the user is, the vehicle being used, and the gallons being consumed
- This system is also utilized by the School Board for the bus fleet
- For many years the annual audit recommended implementing a fixed asset inventory system and a vendor was located who could do the job for $4,100.00
- The Township Clerk will be undertaking the archiving of documents and will begin purging documents in March or April using the PARIS grant
- There is money in the budget for storm water outfall repair permitting, which is required in order to receive a permit each year and is not optional
- The gutters along the front of the building have cracked and need to be replaced
- An ice shield needs to be installed over one of the entrances as a safety measure
- The carpeting in certain sections of the Municipal Building are getting old and should be replaced soon
- Final soil testing needs to be completed at the Carco site to close out the project
- A soil analysis needs to be done to complete remediation done years ago at the Mt. Freedom Firehouse
- The DPW would like to install a portable vehicle lift and multi-vehicle bumper jack to be used at the garage
- Recreation has requested the purchase of a snow blower to replace an old one
Councilman Algeier stated that he would like more information on what would be included in a fixed asset inventory before signing on to implementing the system.
Jerry Giaimis, the Assistant Township Manager, made the following comments:
- The new telephone system has been installed and should reflect a significant savings
- The Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council is doing well and has 211 members contributing $1,100.00 each in annual membership fees
- The MCCPC hopes to attract more members, in particular school boards
- Money is in the budget for a message archiver because the township needs to do a better job storing emails
- There is also money in the budget for anti-virus capabilities for the township’s computers for added security
Mayor Metz asked for a report that would show on a monthly basis how Randolph is doing against the budget for the year in order to keep better track of it.
Manager Lovell responded that the information requested can be found in the monthly reports generated by the Finance Office, however the Assistant Manager has been clarifying and re-organizing those reports, so it may be more user-friendly in the months to come.
OPEN TO PUBLIC
Seeing no one from the public, the public portion was closed.
COUNCIL AND MANAGER COMMENTS
Councilman Algeier thanked Manager Lovell and Mr. Soccio and their staffs for their efforts on the budget.
Councilman Napoliello stated that he is happy to get the budget information, will take a good look at it, and discussion will continue. He hopes that Randolph will not get hit too hard by the state.
Deputy Mayor Alpert thanked the department heads in attendance for their input on the budget. He believes Randolph would be in worse shape if the departments were not run as efficiently as they are.
Mayor Metz thanked everyone for their efforts. The Mayor stated that he met with the auditors earlier in the week in order to get a better handle on how things are done in Randolph. The auditors made the comment that Randolph is very fortunate to have one of the best teams out there. The auditors also mentioned that Randolph is the only town they service where they are not a part of the budget process, which the Mayor believes is a sign that the administration does a good job.
Manager Lovell thanked Mr. Soccio for his efforts on the budget.
Deputy Mayor Alpert made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 12:00 p.m. Councilman Napoliello seconded the motion, and a voice vote in favor was unanimous.
Donna Marie Luciani