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  • Writer's pictureChristine McGrath

January 23rd Meeting Recap

Updated: May 16, 2023

Last night we had a Town Council meeting. Here is a recap.

We started off the meeting with a sobering preview of our 2023 budget. Right now, our acting CFO is projecting that we are over the 2% budget cap at 2.61%. The Administration will be going through the department budgets to make some reductions, but they are also presenting to the Council over a series of meetings proposals to increase revenue by increasing fees. The acting CFO explained that if we increased revenue by $100K we would then be able to be under the budget cap. She also indicated that our surplus for the general fund increased from $3.4 million to $4.3 million, for the pool from $154K to $165K, but decreased for the water/sewer utility from $800K to $270K. We will need to look at the operating expenses there to figure out why that occurred. We also got more bad news that Passaic Valley Water rates are going up 6%. Our Administration is working very hard on our remediation of PFAS so that we can get our water wells back on as soon as possible, and for one of the wells (Linn Drive) the project is ahead of schedule. More to come on how this will all come together from a budget perspective at future meetings.

The acting CFO discussed our annual debt statement and an upcoming bond sale, which we approved last night as part of our addendum. Our annual debt remained stable at 1.7%. The bond sale that we approved was for $3.82 million of general improvement bonds and $2.166 million of bonds for the water/sewer utility. These bonds are for projects approved and completed as far back as 2014 and as recent as 2021. Debt associated with the pool are not being bonded at this time. For a complete list and more details on the bond sale, see the addendum to the meeting. The rate we expect to get from this upcoming bond sale is around 3.1%. With the exception of one note sale that happened last October that came in at 5%, most of our debt is financed at the 2.5% to 3.5% rate.

Keeping on the topic of Finance, the first set of the Administration's proposed increases to fees were presented last night in new business relating to DPW and Zoning. The public can review them on page 32 to 34 of our agenda. The Administration is proposing not just fee increases but including a set of new fees for zoning determinations. I asked the Administration for a revenue estimate on what these changes will generate, and other Council members asked some specific questions on the cost of these services. More discussion to come.

Last night we approved a Joint Flood Committee with Cedar Grove, which will help us apply for grant money to address flooding concerns with the Peckman. The Administration is looking for other municipalities to join our group to increase our leverage on these issues.

We passed an ordinance setting the 2023 salaries for part time employees. This will help to ensure we are complying with minimum wage, offer competitive salaries for certain positions, and ensure that we have salaries for all of the positions created in our Code.

Finally, we passed a third ordinance regulating block parties. There will now be a $35 fee to apply for a block party permit and permits are required to be submitted 14 days in advance. We also stipulated what is allowed under the permit and not allowed to address some issues the Township has had with block parties in the past. If you typically organize a block party I highly suggest you review this ordinance.

Under new ordinances, we introduced two ordinances related to tree removals. The main ordinance is some pretty significant changes we are making to Chapter 493 - Tree Protections, Removal, and Replacement. We are proposing that the Township will hire a "township forester" to do the evaluation on whether or not a tree that a resident wants to remove is dead or damaged. Currently, we require residents to pay for that evaluation on their own and present it with the permit. If we pass this change to the ordinance, that evaluation shifts to the Township. We also introduced a fee ordinance last night, to go along with this new process.

Other significant changes in this revised ordinance include licensing the tree removal companies who do work in Verona. This will ensure that they are following our permitting process, that they have liability insurance, and provide us with an additional revenue stream.

One of my suggestions made it into this final ordinance - which will be that residents will be required to display their tree removal permit. This will help communication with neighbors and township employees that a permitted tree removal is going to take place. The requirements for a performance bond for tree replanting was removed to ease costs to residents who are replanting trees. We also added a provision that prevents residents from marking trees with paint.

There will be a hearing at our next meeting on this ordinance, but as always I encourage you to send your comments to the Council prior to the meeting by using this form:

Other resolutions passed including some highlights here:

  • Cancelation of unfunded balances for capital improvements. This occurs when a project comes in "under budget" and "on budget" as we typically pass bonds for a little more then we expect we need. We had $180K canceled for general improvement bonds, mainly for the roof replacement of town hall and the last ambulance/fire truck purchase. We also canceled $675K of bonds for the water/sewer utility, that was the roof replacement for that building and the Fairway Avenue tank rehabilitation.

  • We approved the application of a $100K grant to move the pickleball/tennis courts in the pool parking lot to a new location. The grant was made to the NJ Department of Community Affairs. We will find out in April if we received that grant.

  • We approved our rent board attorney, tax attorney, bond council, and affordable housing attorney.

  • We adopted a 457 Deferred Compensation Plan

In new business we also were presented with 2023 salaries for the non-exempt employees which will be introduced at the next meeting. Most non-exempt employees are receiving a 2% increase.

If you have any feedback on any matter before the Council, please send it to all of us using the attached form:

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