All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.
Minutes: February 27, 2016
A. OPENING OF BUDGET MEETING
1. Call to Order
A budget meeting of the Randolph Township Council was called to order at 8:30 a.m. by Mayor Hirniak. 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 and the Morris County Daily Record on December 4, 2015 by e-mailing them the annual resolution adopted by the Council on December 3, 2015. The annual resolution, which included this meeting date, was advertised in the Randolph Reporter, the official newspaper of the Township of Randolph, and the Daily Record on December 10, 2015. The time change for this meeting was advertised in the Randolph Reporter on February 18, 2016.
2. Roll Call
Councilman Forstenhausler (via phone)
Deputy Mayor Carey
Also present: Township Manager Mountain
3. Pledge of Allegiance
Mayor Hirniak led the Pledge of Allegiance.
B. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Judith Stewart, of 114 Everdale Road felt there was a design problem with the budget. The last column has “percent change 2015 estimated expense divided by 2016 budget,” but it should have the 2016 on the top of the equation. Manager Mountain explained that it is not a division sign, but a dash, or hyphen. Mrs. Stewart felt the column is misleading and the design should be changed. Manager Mountain explained that last year Mrs. Stewart brought this to their attention when it was a slash, which looked more like a division sign. The Manager will try to improve the column header.
Seeing no one further from the public, the public portion was closed.
C. MANAGER’S BUDGET OVERVIEW
The Manager provided the following information:
- He noted one typographical error: in the yellow pages, in the Manager’s summary on the second page, adoption schedule, the second session should be 5 p.m., Thursday, March 10th.
- Will be working from the 2016 Draft Budget Book and the draft Capital Program Book.
- Worked hard to assemble a budget proposal that addresses major needs, takes advantage of the township’s improving financial position, strives to limit impact on taxpayers without sacrificing the township’s long-term financial vitality.
- He believes the goals were achieved with the proposed budget.
- The document is a working document which will be discussed, and can be changed based upon the work in the coming weeks.
- State aid not confirmed, assumed to be level with no change anticipated.
- Draft budget is within the 2 percent levy cap.
- Operating Budget calls for an appropriation of $30,844,486, and 2016 municipal tax rate of 0.667 (up 1 cent from 2015 or in percentage terms up 1.63%)—rates for the municipal library and Open Space/Recreation Tax are proposed to remain at or close to prior year’s levels.
- The proposed budget contains no service reductions. It features an investment in several areas aimed at enhancing infrastructure. Staffing levels are proposed to remain at roughly the same level as they were at the beginning of 2015. The proposed budget contains the proposal for the conversion of one part-time position to full-time.
- The township continues to build upon the strong financial position on which it began 2015—due to conservative Council policies and the uptick in the local economic climate.
- He asked Darren Maloney to review the 2015 Statement of Operations and to begin this year’s budget process.
Darren Maloney reviewed the 2015 Statement of Operations which was included in the budget book. The township ended the year with 14.8 million dollars in surplus. The breakdown: 1.8 million was picked up from the previous year, water had $760,207 in surplus, and 7.1 million was the sewer surplus. Out of the 7.1 million, 5.6 million is being reserved to pay down future debt. The drivers of the additional surplus are:
- Miscellaneous Revenue Not Anticipated which generated approximately $862,000 in 2015. Key drivers for this are the Morris County Co-Op, the health premium, and the water and sewer connection fees and sewer transmission fees.
- Lapsing Appropriation Reserves—it is generally budgeted for a certain amount, but then all the money is not spent; after one year, it lapses into surplus.
- Straight Revenues—collected about 2.6 million above what was budgeted. The key driver on this is tax collection; the 2015 collection rate was 98.96%. The Reserve for Uncollected Taxes—this makes up the difference for the amount that is not collected, plus the amount to the schools and to the county. The township conservatively calculates for this; in the draft 2016 budget, the collection rate is anticipated at 97.105%. The Reserve for Uncollected Taxes does not affect the collection rate, it’s just a transaction that generates surplus.
Mayor Hirniak asked about the monies lapsing after 12 months and going into surplus, approximately 1.7 million. The Mayor stated that he felt that was a large amount, and asked how it got so high. Darren explained that it is generally around that amount, and it could possibly go lower in the future.
Darren Maloney also explained that under Expenditures, there’s an asterisk noting “Reserved for Settlement Tax Appeals”; $650,000 was added in anticipation of tax appeals being paid out this year. Manager Mountain added that this is being done for two reasons; the money left in the reserve that was set aside from prior years has been expended down, and with the revaluation, there may be more appeals. Darren Maloney noted the increasing trend for percent collected in taxes from 2005 through 2015. He also noted that the trend for the assessed values has increased over the past two years.
Manager Mountain continued with the following information:
- S/W—salary and wages are always a primary driver on the budget because municipal government is a service industry. This increase includes the contractual obligations due our employees, all of which were negotiated in the 2% range for 2016, terminal leave payouts for retiring employees—3 retirements are anticipated, and a proposal to convert the part-time position in the Clerk’s office to full-time, with a dedication to public information. He envisions this position becoming more involved in social media activity as well as economic development activity requiring a focus on promoting the township and its assets.
- Capital Improvement—this is a major driver on this year’s budget. The primary reason for this is the proposal to invest aggressively in the road improvement program. Other improvements include the retaining wall program, and a number of improvements to the infrastructure supporting the municipal facilities.
- Insurance—the primary driver under insurance is the health insurance costs. The good news is the premium increases in this area are much lower than past years. The township also benefitted from a significant dividend from the fund which showed up as miscellaneous unanticipated revenue and bolstered the surplus position. A small piece of the increase is the investment in a wellness program for employees. There is a small up-front cost to start up this program, but hopefully there will be a much bigger return in the long run, with the goal being a healthier workforce resulting in lower health insurance premiums.
- Recycling/Sanitation—the increase in this area is lower than in prior years as the township benefits from the savings from outsourcing the curbside recycling program. Nonetheless, due to the contractual obligations for the private hauling being separate contracts for one more year, the costs are still a driver on the annual budget. He is hopeful with the plan to consolidate the two contracts in the upcoming year into one hauling contract, a cost reduction will be seen resulting from the efficiency of unifying the two operations under one contractor.
- Fire Service—as noted by the Fire Chief in a presentation earlier this year, the Fire Department has a couple of requests in this year’s budget which are necessary to ensure the integrity of the equipment and protective gear, and to provide another incentive for the recruitment and retention of young members. Among the costs contained in this budget proposal which are higher than prior years; the capital request for a more aggressive replacement of aging hose and protective gear, and seed money to institute a clothing allowance program to reward the more active members of the Department. The Manager felt all of these investments have merit and that is why they are included in the proposed budget, but they collectively add up to another driver on the appropriation side.
The Water and Sewer Funds also continue to grow stronger and are in very good financial condition.
- Water fund still benefitting from the Council’s approval of a rate increase in 2012 and aggressive efforts to monitor and upgrade the system’s efficiency.
- The Water fund balance was up to $760,207 at year’s end; additional growth in surplus is projected for the coming year.
- The Sewer fund ended 2015 with a fund balance of $7,153,746. This is a very healthy balance; the balance is reserved toward anticipated debt service primarily associated with the Butterworth Improvement projects.
- The 2016 sewer appropriation continues to include a cushion for the on-going/yet unresolved Jersey City v. RVRSA litigation.
Councilman Loveys brought a newspaper article to his attention regarding tax rates. He shared it with the Council to provide information; there was a short discussion on the data as well as some of the variables.
Next budget meeting will be on March 10th, with presentations from Mark Caputo and Chief Stokoe.
D. BUDGET PRESENTATION
1. Parks and Recreation—Russ Newman
Russ Newman presented the following related to the operating budget:
- The expenses included in the budget are: salaries for all the staff, operating expenses such as office supplies and utilities, and support of leagues.
- In 2015 the programs and support of leagues brought in over $519,000 and spent approximately $457,000. The programs that use Freedom Park are cross-charged for the lighting expenses to partially offset the cost.
- Self Sustaining Programs—pre-school, youth, and adult programs as well as some special events such as Holiday Tree Lighting and Trunk or Treat. In 2015 these programs generated over $553,000 in revenue and provided approximately $136,000 in revenue once salaries and expenses were factored out.
- Revenue is also collected for park and Community Center rentals, fireworks collection, trainings, senior programs, bus donations, deer hunt permits, and state park permits. In 2015 they collectively generated over 1.4 million dollars, which represented about 69% of the overall budget.
- Camperships and fee waivers—over $2,000 was distributed for kids to attend camp, and over $9,000 in program and beach membership waivers for families unable to afford them.
Mayor Hirniak asked for the definition of a self-sustaining program. Russ explained that years ago the Support of Leagues were programs supported through tax payer dollars, there was a set amount frozen each year; in approximately 2010, they started phasing that out. All the programs are now, for the most part, self-sustaining. Any program that doesn’t require taxpayer dollars is considered self-sustaining. Any new programs must be self-sustaining in order to continue them. Russ further explained that there is also a Recreation Booster Club account; if a program doesn’t generate enough revenue to cover expenses, the booster club can offset the difference.
Russ Newman explained that over the last few years there has been a drop in program enrollment for many programs based on the demographics in the schools. In 2015 there was a slight uptick in enrollment. They have had success with the one-day sports clinics, and they have recently begun one-day Artworks programs when schools are out.
Councilwoman Veech commented that she felt that there could be a better spread of food for the Holiday Tree Lighting, and possibly other times when the community comes together.
Councilman Guadagno asked if there were any new programs anticipated in the parks. He commented that, with the expense repairing the tennis courts, perhaps they could be used for the new, popular game of pickleball. Russ explained that he would discuss programming as part of the Capital budget; they have been approached by some groups about adding pickleball.
Councilman Napoliello asked about the costs of basketball and lacrosse versus soccer; Russ explained the factors that contribute to the higher cost of the basketball and lacrosse programs.
Russ Newman explained that there were several increases to the 2015 budget for Celebrations and Public Events. The Department received very positive feedback on the various events. The budget request for 2016 is to maintain the same level as the 2015 budget.
Manager Mountain explained that this year’s Capital budgeting for Parks and Recreation is a bit tricky due to the Master Plan process that is ongoing. It is anticipated that the recommendation from the Master Plan process will have an impact on the 2016 budget and beyond. The Manager further explained that Russ Newman’s proposed budget reflects some projected recommendations from the Parks Master Plan; however, the larger projects will not begin until after 2016. The Manager explained that the larger numbers in the 2016 request are, for the most part, for cash reserves for projects which will not be happening for a couple of years. The Parks Master Plan recommendations are for cash, pay-as-you-go, projects; the cash will be reserved within the trust for the projected needs.
Russ Newman presented the following related to the Capital budget request:
- Some requests are for projects which have not yet been approved by the Council; they are anticipated as recommendations from the Parks Master Plan.
- Brundage Park—funding toward replacement of lighting (total cost for project $500,00)
- Heistein Park—funding toward replacement of lighting (total cost for project $250,000-$300,000)
- Randolph Park—funding toward repaving parking lot.
- Brundage Park Playhouse—funding toward improvements to be determined after recommendations from the Parks Master Plan.
- Funding toward studies for trails or development of potential park improvements.
- Funding for the marking of the trails, an issue which has been raised by the Parks Committee as a public health and safety issue.
- Additional security cameras for the parks.
- Funding for ongoing field improvements and other issues.
- Parks equipment:
- Ford F350 dump truck was funded last year, but the funding was insufficient for the vehicle with the necessary accessories; additional funds requested in 2016 to cover the cost.
- Other vehicle is part of the replacement program which takes an old vehicle out of service and replaces it with a similar vehicle.
There was some discussion on various items for Parks and Recreation.
Mayor Hirniak allowed resident, Judith Stewart, to speak. She thanked Russ Newman for the report he gives each year regarding the abatements. Mrs. Stewart felt that is one of the most important things that the Parks and Recreation Department does that people are not aware of. She also stated that Anne Schoolderman, one of the bus drivers, also runs the food pantry; she explained that many residents are not aware of the food pantry. Mrs. Stewart thanked Russ Newman for all the work his department does, some of which are not obvious.
2. Department of Public Works—Tom Spring
Tom Spring presented the following related to the operating budget:
- Supplies budget has dropped slightly due to more accountability from staff.
- Road materials—not as much as anticipated was spent; in the 2015 budget there was the purchase of another, larger hotbox, it was just delivered three weeks ago. That will now increase the amount of pothole repairs.
- Street Sweeping Disposal—he includes this in the budget, but to date the township has been able to dispose of the street sweepings at the Sussex County MUA, which is at a lower cost. There are some occasions when it has to be disposed of somewhere else and pay a higher disposal cost.
- Equipment Rental—there are processes done during the year which require the rental of a machine.
- Much of the rest of the operating budget remains the same.
There was some discussion on the maintenance of the catch basins as well as the progress of the cleanup of retention basins. Tom replied that the retention basin cleanup is a slow process, but it is being done in-house.
Tom Spring presented the following related to the Capital budget request:
- Recycling—he and Mark Caputo share that budget, with Mark having about 90% of the budget and Tom only responsible for the Recycling Center maintenance. The concrete below the dumpsters at the Recycling Center need to be redone, and subsequently, repave around them. Also, the rebuilding of railroad tie walls using cement blocks.
- Leaf hauling—budget was increased due to the amount of leaves collected increasing over the past couple of years.
- Snow removal—the budget is based on the last five years; last year there were 18 storms and this year there have been 9. The chemical numbers are high due to the pre-treatment of roads. Mayor Hirniak noted that the township has a stellar reputation with regard to road pre-treatment and snow removal.
There was some discussion on the snow budget reserves, as well as how the pre-treatment of roads is done.
- Fleet maintenance—the fleet is starting to age. More of the larger jobs are now being performed in-house.
Mayor Hirniak asked for clarification on the Director’s vehicle line item. Tom Spring explained that his vehicle is in good shape, but it has 100,000 miles on it; typically pickup trucks are kept for seven years. The vehicle used by the Buildings and Grounds is a 2007 truck, it’s rotting and needs to be replaced. Tom explained that his current vehicle, a 2011, would be used to replace the 2007 Buildings and Grounds vehicle, and the Director would get a new vehicle. That vehicle could still be used as part of the snow plowing fleet.
- Replacement of 905 pickup truck: A lot of money is being put into truck 905 to maintain it. It would be replaced with a standard pickup truck with a snow plow.
- The MAC tractor used to haul the leaf dump trailer around, and also used by the Water Department to tow the excavator, needs to be replaced. It’s a 1998 which was purchased as a used vehicle about 15 years ago. He is looking for a used tractor to replace it.
- Dump Body 912 will be refurbished with a new, stainless steel body and place the chemical tank on it for winter.
- Capital Outlay—Funnel Plow: the current plows do not have the ability to push snow up over a high snow bank.
BREAK (5 min.)
The meeting broke at 10:40 am for 5 minutes.
D. BUDGET PRESENTATION (CONTINUED)
3. Water/Sewer and Engineering Department—Ralph Carchia
Ralph Carchia presented the following related to Engineering:
- Budget is consistent with last year; Engineering consultant fees were increased due to the increase in volume of work for the year.
- Capital outlay:
- Various drainage and paving repairs—upgrading of GPS equipment; this is a requirement for the current programming.
- Capital budget:
- Millbrook Avenue paving and resurfacing—the design work for this project is sizeable. Received DOT funding for the project, as such, a number of improvements to realign curbing and sidewalk ramps were required which increased the costs.
Manager Mountain explained that the retaining wall committee met with Paul Ferriero and identified the next set of walls to be addressed, they are also on Everdale Road. Part of the project will be to stabilize the section of roadway by the farm, between Mountainside and Shongum Rd. The retaining wall project is a six-year plan.
- Underground tank removals—part of an ongoing project which dates back many years; one at the Chapel Hill site on Sunset drive, at the Municipal Building, at the Ironia Firehouse, and at the DPW building. It is anticipated that this will be completed in 2016. There was some explanation as to the details of what has been required to close these out.
- VFW elevator—an $80,000 grant was received from the county, $20,000 was funded in 2015, and $50,000 is requested this year. This additional funding will make the elevator go from the basement up through the top floor in order to make the entire building accessible.
- Storm Water Outfall—for Cushing Court—the design plans are completed, and the permits have been submitted to the DEP.
Ralph Carchia presented the following related to Water and Sewer Capital budget:
- Knight’s Bridge Pump Station—it is currently out to bid.
- West Hanover Water Main Project—this is predicated on the contractor for the county completing his work along the West Hanover right of way.
- Water and Sewer building—in 2014 they began looking at constructing a building in order to fit all the equipment in building, and put a backup generator at the site. The operation is currently in a small building on Sunset Drive, with the equipment jammed into the small space. It would be constructed at the DPW facility.
- Sussex Turnpike Water Main Project—this is a continuation of the first phase of the project. Harvey Terrace and Carellen Road are scheduled to be completed before the County finishes and paves Sussex Turnpike.
- Replacement vehicle for a 15 year old vehicle with 80,000; it’s also used as a pool vehicle for the municipal building.
- Sewer pump station—there will soon be 9 pump stations with the new Butterworth project. A lot was spent on overtime in 2015 due to emergencies at pump stations. Over time, the internal mechanisms of the pump stations wear, despite regular maintenance. A thorough study needs to be done on the pump stations as to their current status, and what needs to be done to them; this would cut down on the reactive way of servicing them.
- Fire hydrants—each year some are replaced due to age.
- Tamari Court booster station—this will supply a better pressure gradient to the residents in that area. This has been identified in the Master Plan. Funding for this will begin in 2016, but continue into future years.
Ralph also explained that lawn irrigation uses a lot of the township’s allotted water. He explained the problem this poses with the MCMUA. There will be more discussion on water use and conservation at a future Council meeting.
Ralph Carchia stated that the operating budget request for Water and Sewer is flat, it’s actually slightly lower than 2015.
Ralph presented the following related to Water and Sewer Capital outlay:
- Trailer to transport equipment—need a larger trailer than what they currently have in order to more larger equipment.
- Meter MIU replacement program—this is the continuation of a program which is done every year; outdated or faulty meters are replaced.
- Safety equipment replacement—important to update and maintain safety items utilized by staff.
- Sewer line camera—this small camera will attach to the new sewer-jetting machine; this can be viewed and controlled right from an iPad in the event of a backup.
- Remote camera and lock system—will be utilized for remote pump station locations.
There was a short discussion on pressure regulating valves. Ralph also commended his staff, and stated that many projects are able to be done in-house due to their talents.
Councilman Loveys asked for a general clarification of the difference between capital outlay and capital budget. Manager Mountain explained that capital outlay is for smaller cash projects; it often comes down to the Manager and Darren Maloney examining the cap position and determining how best to stay within.
F. COUNCIL QUESTIONS/DISCUSSION
Councilman Loveys stated that he sees that the budget is up approximately 1.5 million, and a good portion of that are the road improvements. He questioned if this will set a future precedent, such as working with a 30 million dollar budget next year. Manager Mountain replied that it doesn’t set a precedent in terms of the handling of the surplus, but in the large line items that have increased, such as capital, he explained that is not something that would be done each year. It is his hope that the increase in cash for the roads will give it a boost this year, and then whittle it back down to about 1 million dollars. In four years the revaluation pay down will drop off; it was decided this year to offset it with surplus since there was good surplus.
Councilman Guadagno confirmed that Tom Spring will present to the Council a list of roads for the 2016 improvements. Manager Mountain stated that staff has been working to change the way roads are evaluated, and they are in the final stages of changing that metric. The roads will be run through the new system, it will be presented to the road infrastructure committee and discussed, and finally the recommendations will be presented to the Council.
Councilman Guadagno stated that he needs to see the debt service along with the budget. Manager Mountain replied that it will be covered in conjunction with the presentation on the remaining Capital.
Councilman Loveys stated that he supports investing in the roads, but there is $380,000 in debt proposed for Millbrook Avenue. He explained that debt was established based on Quaker Church Road; at the time, the township had switched over to an all cash road program. A grant was applied for, but since Quaker Church Road was in such bad shape, it was agreed that the township would go out to bond, and when the grant came back, it would work off the bond and not as much would be bonded. Councilman Loveys asked why $380,000 was now being bonded instead of using cash. Manager Mountain explained that the township is in the cash position that they could do that; the bond ordinance is already scheduled to move, but it can be changed to cash. There was some discussion on the 1.5 million dollars for road improvements. Councilman Guadagno added that there shouldn’t be any debt service for roads since it was decided in the past that cash would be used; however, he feels that it’s important to see the debt service information. This topic will be discussed further at the March 19th budget meeting.
Councilwoman Veech stated that the fund balance has continuously risen. She asked for a future discussion on what is too much, the effects of too much in the fund balance, and where it is invested. Manager Mountain stated that it can be discussed at a future meeting.
G. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Judith Stewart of 114 Everdale Road stated that the Council and the staff have done a very good job; she feels the Council members are very honest. She thanked the Council and township staff for their honest work.
Deputy Mayor Carey made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:50 a.m. Councilman Guadagno seconded the motion, and the following roll call vote was taken:
Deputy Mayor Carey