BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – A solid portion of Tuesday’s Township Council meeting was spent providing explanations to the Township’s accounting and budgeting process with regard to Capital Expenditures and a recent bond ordinance introduced at the July 26 meeting and subsequently approved at Tuesday’s meeting.
This discussion was the administration's reaction to posts to a community forum Facebook site initiated by resident and Libertarian Township Council Candidate Tom Maciejewski regarding the $1,058,000 bond ordinance and if the Township really needs a garbage truck upgrade for $100,000.
“My interpretation of the point he [Councilman Ed Delia] brought up [at the July 26 council meeting ] was that the town will and has in the past received funds for one project, but then, through the use of ordinances, use(d) the money for something else,” the post said.
Maciejewski's post continued, “Is this money really a 'slush fund' that kind of skirts the rules allowing money to be approved for one thing and then spent on whatever floats a boat later on?”
Mayor Bob Woodruff took this accusation seriously and thought it was necessary to address this allegation at the public meeting in the following manner as shown in this video from Tuesday's meeting.
Woodruff also wanted it to be clear that the average tax increase per household for this Capital Expenditure bond is based on the assessed value of the property and not population numbers, as verified by Township CFO Mike Marceau. Maciejewski had posted on the forum the capital expenditure cost to be “about $70 for each man, woman and child in town.”
Woodruff verified the Township of Berkeley Heights average tax increase on this particular bond for the first three years of the bond,[interest only] will be $0.91 per household and in the year 2020, the cost goes to $26.77 per household and stays around that level until 2026, when it goes down to $25.99.
To further explain the capital expenditure process, Council President Jeanne Kingsley said the capital budgeting and planning process is based on a five year rolling capital plan. “You anticipate each year what your capital needs will be so we can manage interest payments so they are relatively level and constant so tax payers don’t see significant increases or decreases in their tax bill each year,” said Kingsley.
"We look at how much short term debt we can take on, and then we prioritize what it is we are going to spend the money on with the goal of keeping our debt service payments level," she said.
“We are taking on short term debt of $1 million but we have $2 million of short term debt that we are paying off,” said Kingsley, explaining that they manage the debt service while also managing the capital needs.
“Every year we look at our needs, re-access the needs based upon wear and tear and make decisions on what we spend money on and who will get what to do their job better,” said Kingsley.
So, when the purchase of the hook truck came into question during the Capital Budget meetings, re-addressed at the July 26 council meeting and again at Tuesday’s meeting, the entire council except for Councilman Ed Delia supported the bond ordinance and the purchase of the hook truck [that will serve to repurpose a 2003 garbage truck to be used for plowing, salter, brine, chipper body, garbage truck].
During the public hearing, Maciejewski questioned Marceau’s responses to his allegations that, in the past, the council used unspent roof repair money to pay for the municipal redevelopment studies. Marceau responded that the unspent money was used for the dispatch that was over budget and the redevelopment studies were paid from Section 20 of the same bond ordinance which allowed for up to $100,000 in engineering fees.
The following video is Maciejewski addressing the council and their answers during the Public Hearing at Tuesday's council meeting.