All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.
Minutes: January 27, 2018
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 Forstenhausler. 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 November 17, 2017 by emailing them the annual resolution adopted by the Council on October 10, 2017. The annual resolution, which included this meeting date, was advertised in the Randolph Reporter, the official newspaper of the Township of Randolph on November 23, 2017, and in the Daily Record on November 21, 2017.
2. Roll Call
Deputy Mayor Loveys
Also present: Township Manager Mountain, Darren Maloney, Ralph Carchia, Russ Newman, and Tom Spring
3. Pledge of Allegiance
Mayor Forstenhausler led the Pledge of Allegiance.
B. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Judith Stewart of 114 Everdale Road thanked the Council, and the Township Manager and Clerk for having the budget meeting open to the public.
Seeing no one further from the public, the public portion was closed.
C. DEPARTMENT BUDGET PRESENTATIONS
Manager Mountain presented the below overview:
- He commended Darren Maloney for his work to assemble the draft documents. He explained that the process began earlier this year, and the staff was very responsive; he appreciated their effort.
- The proposed budget addresses major needs; it supports the current service levels, and continues the aggressive funding of capital and infrastructure improvements. The township’s overall financial strength has allowed for many of the capital projects to be funded with cash.
- It achieves the goal of maintaining a stable tax levy for municipal services without sacrificing the township’s long term financial stability.
- The document is a draft; it is a working document designed to spark discussion and can be changed based upon the work over the next several weeks.
- All expense line items have been reviewed with Department Heads, verified and challenged, and all revenue categories are based upon prior year actual collections with the exception of state aid, which is a projection-assumed to be level; no change is anticipated.
- Operating Budget calls for an appropriation of $31,851,669, down 0.22% from the adopted 2017 budget. As proposed, the draft budget is within the state levy cap limit.
- The proposed budget would not require an increase in the municipal tax levy. The rates for the municipal library and Open Space/Recreation Tax are also proposed to remain at or close to prior year’s levels, so the overall municipal tax rate would be unchanged.
- It contains no service reductions; it includes investments in several key areas of infrastructure. Staffing levels are proposed to remain at roughly the same level as in the beginning of 2017. It does contain the proposal for one additional PT position in support of the Community Garden which will be detailed in the overview of expenditure drivers.
- The township continues to build upon the strong financial position on which 2017 began.
- He asked Darren to review the 2017 Statement of Operations.
Darren Maloney reviewed the 2017 Statement of Operations that was included in the budget book. The township ended 2016 with 17 million dollars in fund balance, and ended 2017 with 18.5 million. The year-end operations fund balance for 2017 was $18,537,000, which is the combined fund balance of water & sewer and the township. He explained that an economy that is slowly increasing results in increased revenue for the township. There was also the year-end rush to pay the first & second quarter taxes for 2018; as a result, there was approximately $170,000 in additional collections.
He explained that the connection fees for Water & Sewer were up significantly; the connection fees in Water have doubled, and the connection fees in Sewer have quadrupled. There should again be additional connection fees this year.
Darren is still working on drawing down the surplus. He reviewed the ten year history of the budget surplus.
Manager Mountain continued with the following information:
- Highlights of some of the budget drivers:
- Salary & Wages—comprise 30% of total expenditures. Containing this cost center is critical to attaining budgetary stability. This year this cost center is decreasing 1.13% percent from the previous year. The reasons for this decrease include the cumulative impact of union contracts in recent years being settled with the 2 percent cap as a guideline, recent retirements and other personnel changes resulting in salary reductions for several positions in the organization, and the maintenance of the full-time head count at current staffing levels.
- Liability and Group Insurance—Randolph is a founding member of both the North Jersey Municipal Employee Benefits Fund (HIF) and the Morris Municipal Employee Liability Fund (JIF). Through these joint municipal liability funds the town manages its employee heath insurance and property casualty insurance. Both funds have been very successful in managing insurance expenses and the line items for these respective areas reflect this success. This year’s budget anticipates a 2.34% increase for group health insurance and a 3.80% increase in liability premium/assessments for property/casualty.
- Debt Service—utilizing the “pay as you go” cash approach to finance capital expenditures has helped keep the township debt obligation low and annual debt service stable. This year the cost center is decreasing by 29.65%. The decrease is the result of a 2007 bond issue being defeased in 2017.
- Capital Outlay—the capital outlay budget is utilized for acquiring minor equipment, automobiles, and to make small improvements to facilities. This budget line item, which fluctuates from year to year, is proposed to decrease by $0.55 in 2018.
- Capital Improvement Fund—the back-up for the proposed 2018 expense in support of capital improvement can be found in the separate book entitled 2018-2023 Capital Program Budget. The funding for capital program expenses is proposed to increase by 4.94% in 2018. The increase reflects the goal of aggressively funding infrastructure improvements such as roads, retaining walls and facilities. The majority of these improvements are being funded in cash and some of the budgetary impact is being offset by a higher use of surplus for these one-time expenditures.
- The Water and Sewer budget outlined in the draft document reflect the two fund’s continued strong financial condition.
- The Water fund balance ended 2017 at $689,225 and continues to hold fairly steady despite substantial investment in the system during the past year. The proposed budget calls for an appropriation of $3,466,722 which is a 4.13% increase from 2017. This increase is driven by the capital improvements to be funded as part of this year’s budget.
- The Sewer fund ended 2017 with a fund balance of $10,207,322. This is a very healthy balance, but the reason we have been building this balance is to put us in a good position to pay down the debt anticipated from the Butterworth Improvement projects. The 2018 sewer budget is proposed at $4,663,168, representing a 7.29% increase from 2017.
- The 2018 sewer appropriation continues to include as in past years a cushion for the on-going/yet unresolved Jersey City v. RVRSA litigation.
1. Water & Sewer/General Engineering—Ralph Carchia
Ralph Carchia reviewed the operating expenses for Engineering and Water & Sewer with the Council. He also reviewed his Capital Outlay and Capital budget request for 2018.
There was discussion about realigning the intersection of Old Chimney and Shongum roads. This will be incorporated into the first phase of the Meadowbrook Road water main project; the entire project will be completed in three phases, and should be completed in three years. Mayor Forstenhausler asked if the project included any sewer work. Ralph explained that two or three years ago a study was completed on infiltration and inflow in the Shongum area; it was determined that all the sewers in the area were in good shape. Councilman Guadagno asked if the other utilities, such as the gas company, were aware of the project in case they were interested in installing or improving services while the township work was underway. Ralph replied that they will be notified once the plans were finalized. Councilwoman Veech asked about how the residents in the area would be notified. Ralph explained that prior to any project, they hold a pre-construction meeting with residents; a formal notice will be sent to residents once the project is ready to go out to bid.
There was a brief discussion on the retaining wall projects. The main focus will be on Fords Road, particularly the wall at the corner of Millbrook Avenue. Most projects will be done by grading, and eliminating the walls.
Meadowbrook Pump Station—funding from the sewer utility, not the operating budget. There will be more discussion at the budget work session with the Council. The pump station is currently under design.
Emergent water and sewer repair budget. Councilman Loveys noted that this was not previously a line item, and asked for clarification. Manager Mountain explained that they are formalizing it as a budget commitment instead of treating issues as emergencies and drawing down any other funding.
There was a brief discussion on the emergency lights; there are currently two that are used for nighttime emergency repairs, and the budget will allow for the purchase of two more. There was also a brief discussion on the replacement of the older fire hydrants with the new, quick-connect hydrants.
There was a brief discussion on the water for the future park on Calais Road; that was included as part of the overall park plan.
The water line for the pavilion at Freedom Park was briefly discussed; Ralph stated that the department could potentially install the line.
Councilman Guadagno felt that this year would be a good time to increase the water charges, and install additional water lines. There was some discussion on the specific areas in the township. He expressed his concern at the potential to lose the water allotment. Manager Mountain stated that they could evaluate the increase in water charges for this year; however, the extension of water lines would need to be in future budgets. There are several large projects planned for 2018. Councilman Guadagno discussed two situations in which there was an exorbitant amount of water used in three months; he felt the water department should be able to notice that increased usage sooner. Ralph explained that the readings are done quarterly; there is no easy way to determine an individual’s usage regularly. There was some discussion on how water usage could be monitored more closely.
There was discussion on the line item for tree removal. The tree fund has been declining over the years, and by putting a line item in the budget, it can supplement that fund at this time.
There was a five minute break.
2. Parks and Recreation—Russ Newman
Russ Newman reviewed the operating expenses for Parks and Recreation, and then reviewed with the Council his Capital Budget and Capital Outlay Budget request for 2018.
Councilwoman Veech noted that the budget for salaries has consistently been over-budgeted by approximately $100,000 for the last several years. Darren Maloney replied that he has done that in order to generate an appropriation reserve that then lapses to fund balance. Councilwoman Veech asked why he does it for this budget. Darren explained that they also do it in the police budget; it’s part of their over-budgeting plan. Manager Mountain added that they over budgeted a couple of line items in order to have surplus in the event of an emergency. Mayor Forstenhausler added that it’s a strategic plan to build it into the budget. Councilwoman Veech would like to have those line items specifically noted for their reference.
There was a brief discussion on security for special events.
There was a brief discussion on the new turf field at Freedom Park, as well as the replacement of the turf on the existing field. The new field is currently under design, and once it goes out to bid, there will be a better idea of the exact cost. The project is expected to take place during the summer so the turf fields are ready for use in the fall.
Councilman Guadagno asked how the algae issue at Heistein pond would be addressed. Russ explained that it is included under his operations budget; he increased the budget slightly to include pond maintenance.
Russ explained that there is a line under general park improvements for Artworks alternate facility; they are looking to reserve money for several years to have the ability to develop a new facility. Manager Mountain explained there is a three year plan; it was part of the Park Master Plan to find either a new location or to repurpose the current facility.
Councilman Loveys asked if the Council could get an inventory list of the Parks & Recreation fleet. Manager Mountain and Russ agreed to provide one.
Since there was already a break, the Council opted to continue without this break.
E. DEPARTMENT PRESENTATION
1. Public Works—Tom Spring
Tom Spring reviewed the operating expenses for Public Works, and then reviewed with the Council his Capital Budget and Capital Outlay Budget request for 2018.
There was a brief discussion on the budget for renting equipment, and the in-kind sharing of equipment between towns.
There was also a discussion on the salary and wage budget, as well as a general question on what happens to the extra funds if the expenses come in under budget. Manager Mountain explained that the extra funds go back into surplus; there is always a one-year lag on funds that go into surplus.
There was some discussion on the change from renting uniforms to purchasing uniforms.
There was also discussion about the leaf hauling budget; Manager Mountain explained that the leaf collection came in under budget in 2017. After one more year with the new leaf collection policy, it will be decided next year if that budget can be lowered. The Manager asked Tom to explain how the program worked this past fall. Tom explained that the leaves fell later than usual last fall. It takes eight weeks to collect the leaves, and they create the schedule by counting eight weeks back from Christmas. The residents’ concerns last year were not that contractors were allowed to put leaves at the curb, but about the timing of the collection since leaves didn’t fall as early as in previous years. Tom made an adjustment to the schedule for this year; the collection will begin six days later than in the past. Tom explained that another issue is that when they start a collection on a Saturday, residents who only get their leaves out on Saturday get missed. For those instances this year, a truck will go back during the week to collect the leaves put out on Saturday and Sunday. Manager Mountain reported that the number of complaints, in general, were fewer this year. Councilwoman Veech explained that notices were received in her neighborhood about leaves being in the street. There is an issue with putting leaves on the residents’ properties, but not having them cover the sidewalk. Manager Mountain explained that the issue was not with those who put the leaves out a couple of days before the collection, but with those who had leaves at the curb or in the street more than seven days before the collection. The township is trying to determine how to better communicate with the residents in neighborhoods that have sidewalks.
Councilman Guadagno asked how the oil collection at the Recycling Center was going to be corrected. Tom replied that there will no longer be oil collection since there is not a way to test each batch of oil that is dropped off; there was a past issue with it being contaminated. A sign is in place at the Recycling Center indicating that there is no longer a collection, and to take to a gas station. Councilman Guadagno felt that this should be communicated to residents in other ways as well.
There was some discussion on letters given to residents at the end of the collection period whose leaves had not been out in time, explaining that they could bag those leaves and the township would come back to collect them. There was a good response.
There was a discussion on the annual branch collection. Manager Mountain added that if there was a severe storm, with a lot of damage, a special branch collection would take place.
Councilman Guadagno asked for clarification on shoveling snow off the sidewalks; there was a brief discussion on how the policy is enforced. Councilwoman Veech asked for clarification on the policy related to sidewalks that are starting to heave. Manager Mountain explained that if a significant safety issue is noticed, the township advises the homeowner and reminds them that they are responsible for repairs to sidewalks. If the resident asks, the township will help him find the appropriate people to repair the sidewalk.
There was a discussion on salt use for snow removal, as well as the costs related to it over the recent years.
There was some discussion on the budget for the maintenance of the fire trucks; some of the work has to be contracted out.
There was a discussion on the number of trucks and the replacement of one of the oldest, seldom used dump trucks.
Councilwoman Veech asked about the zipper machine. Tom replied that he just got a message that it is on its way, and should be delivered in the next few days. She asked Tom to let her know when it first gets used in the spring. The company will be training all three towns at the same time.
Councilman Loveys asked for an inventory list of the Public Works fleet; Manager Mountain agreed to get one for the Council.
Councilman Loveys asked for an update on retention basins. Tom provided a brief update on the three basins they worked on last year, as well as the ones planned for this year. Manager Mountain added that Richard Lindsay, and a high school student in the Option II program, will be working on mapping the retention basins in order to develop a regular maintenance plan for the future.
F. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Judith Stewart of 114 Everdale Road explained that she likes the Council-Manager form of government, and thinks the Township Manager is an asset to the community.
Seeing no one further from the public, the public portion was closed.
G. COUNCIL QUESTIONS/DISCUSSION
Councilman Tkacs suggested that the Council members receive a Capital project “field trip” so they could see things in the township that have been done, or need to be done. Manager Mountain replied that something like that could be set up for those who are interested; he is also willing to do something informally, if requested.
Councilwoman Veech appreciated the revenue information from the Parks and Recreation Department; she asked if in the future they could receive it prior to the budget presentation.
Councilman Forstenhausler thanked those who presented at the meeting.
Councilman Guadagno made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 12:05 p.m. Councilwoman Carey seconded the motion, and the following roll call vote was taken:
Deputy Mayor Loveys