April 30, 2014 at 6:55 AM
LIVINGSTON, NJ – The Township Council held its regular meeting around the public budget hearing on Monday evening. Although the public was relatively quiet on municipal budget issues, the council was criticized for its use of the Recreation Trust Fund.
During public comment, resident Larry Kohn addressed the council on its use of the Recreation Trust Fund, which is separate from the annual operating budget. Kohn claims that the township has been using this route of appropriating monetary resources as a “slush fund” and believes that the data he has received from OPRA requests reflects an administrative “spending spree.”
According to documentation provided by Kohn, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Division of Local Government Services issued the creation and use of the Recreation Trust fund to be used “exclusively for the purpose of operating programs for which fees are collected and to refund payments, as necessary, to program participants. It is not authorized for funding routine operations or overhead of operating a recreation program.”
Kohn asserted that this fund has been used inappropriately to pay for such expenses as Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Youth Appreciation Week festivities, as well as picnic tables, budget allocations, and staff lunches, to name a few in a very long list.
According to Kohn, the use of this fund now exceeds over $1.5 million annually and “since Meade has joined the township, annual spending increased nearly 700 percent, and in 10 years of experience, six years, or 60 percent of the time spending exceeded revenue. In 2012 the excess was $442,574.”
Kohn believes that the use of this fund “contains illegality, illegitimacy, and secrecy. The operation of the recreation trust fund violates every state law and regulation established for its existence.” The council did not answer Kohn’s concerns at the meeting.
The council also honored the 501c group H.O.P.E. as well as the Fire Department for their contributions to the community.
H.O.P.E., or Helping Other People Everywhere, is a 501c that was created to help those in need, and this year they have been selling bags of candles they call “luminaries” for good causes. This group is not discriminatory in their aide to others, and simply chooses those who need help. Mayor Michael Rieber thanked them for their service.
Although the fire department diligently left the meeting before they were to be honored by the council due to a call, they came back later to accept a plaque given by the mayor. Fire Chief Chris Mullen accepted the plaque and thanked his five coworkers who are permanent staff, the rest of the LFD being volunteers. “It’s the 70 volunteers who really make this possible, we owe them everything,” said Mullen.
In other news, the council approved the final ordinance to amend the penalty for house alarms going off falsely in Livingston. Councilwoman Deborah Shapiro explained “this change makes it so that you do not have to go to court to resolve the fine.”
A resolution was passed to submit a grant application for a pedestrian bridge on Wardell Road. Councilman Al Anthony explained that there is a break in the sidewalk on this part of town because of a stream. A young resident proposed the idea of putting a pedestrian bridge there. “I believe it’s a fantastic idea. A bridge will make it friendlier for walks to school, bike trails, and make the town even more green.”