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  • Writer's pictureChristine McGrath

May 20th Meeting Summary

Last night we had a Council meeting. Here are the highlights.

We finally got a detailed report from our Municipal Clerk on the 2023 May election costs, but a discussion on how to move forward did not happen as some members of the Council wanted more information. The May election cost Verona $75,000, a dramatic increase from under $25,000 a few years ago.

The costs are largely due to reimbursing the County for staff time to host the election, costs for the election ballots and technology, and poll workers reimbursement. County staff time totaled $13K for the Board of Elections, $4K for the County Clerk, and $8K for Essex Superintendent of Elections. Mandatory printing of ballots cost $15K, $7K to program the machines, and $2k on the polling pads.

My colleagues seemed to be focused on the $17K spent on poll workers. We are required to have 6 poll workers per voting district, and we have 11 districts in Verona. My peers asked the Clerk to ask the appropriate County officials to consider consolidating our voting districts so that we would not need to pay so many poll workers. While she agreed to explore it, the Clerk explained that there are many laws in place mandating a variety of requirements with elections on how many people can be in a voting district. We will not be able to radically reduce the number of voting districts, which means any cost savings will likely be minimal.

The Mayor prevented a discussion on moving the election to November until the district consolidation questions are answered by County officials. Regardless of the answer, there is no denying that as a municipality we now face significant election costs by having our non partisan town council election in May. 96% of what we paid in May would cost us nothing if just held the election in November, as West Orange currently does.

There is also a risk that the $75K of costs will rise if either Cedar Grove or South Orange move their elections, as some costs are split with the other municipalities that have elections when we do. In addition, we cannot afford to offer early voting for the May election, so we will have a growing disparity on the voting process between May and November, further confusing voters. Finally, the schools face a tremendous stress by having the elections in their facilities, and certainly eliminating the May election would help our schools.

The Council can vote to move the election, or we can kick this question to the voters this November as a voter referendum. The Council would need to vote on a referendum question in July in order for it to get on the November ballot. There is no cost to us to have a referendum question. If the election is moved, the sitting Council members all get a 6 month extension of our terms to then align with November elections dates. The Township would be locked in for 10 years on the decision.

The Council would love to hear feedback on when the municipal election should be. You can email all of us here by using this form:

Moving on, last night we approved over $12 million dollars of bonds for a variety of projects that touch every single aspect of living in Verona. I am really excited and proud that we got to this point. We are going to move forward on critical infrastructure improvements, including (but not limited to):

  • Tennis/pickleball court renovation (court in pool parking lot)

  • Relining the "big pool" for the 2025 season

  • Repair of the Franklin Street Bridge

  • New pump to resolve water pressure issues at the Claridge

  • Cell tower building repairs

  • Town Hall repairs

  • Sewer treatment plant upgrades

  • New parking kiosks

In addition, we are finally going to start digitizing records, a very necessary project. We allocated the funds for a (mandatory) tax re-evaluation and to settle a very old lawsuit due to Liberty/Freedom field construction. Our first responders (police and fire) are also getting necessary new equipment.

Under resolutions, we made a procedural move to ensure that our Town Manager and Deputy Town Manager can work to execute the agreement with Spectrum 360. As you may recall, that project is part of our settlement with Fair Share Housing to build affordable housing in Verona. The project has planning board approval but has not yet taken out permits for construction. We asked for an update on the timeline of that project.

We also accepted several grants (National Opioid Settlement and Click It and Ticket) and awarded a new tree trimming contract. We made an adjustment to our capital budget. We certified LOSAP for volunteer fire department members for 2023.

It is not my process to normally summarize public comment, but I want to acknowledge that several residents came to ask questions on the process for approval of the new police/fire/rescue building and to provide feedback on the project after a recent meeting. More public meetings on the design of that building will be announced in the near future.

Any comments or questions on anything discussed should be sent to the entire Council by using this form:

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