BLOOMFIELD, NJ – With uncertainty continuing to loom over municipal operations across the country, Bloomfield introduced their 2020 Township Budget at Monday’s Council Conference Meeting.

The meeting was held via video conference with council members participating from their homes and offices with the proceedings livestreamed on the township’s Facebook page and WBMA-TV.

Township Administrator Matthew Watkins hosted the presentation about the budget proposal that is up consideration, which clocks in at over $90 million.

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“These strange times that we have makes it difficult to provide a budget because we are in the throes of a change that is going on in our society and the United States, but we still need to do a budget,” said Watkins.  “But we are in better shape than most towns because we have a large fund balance to make up for the large revenue shortfall we are experiencing now in most categories of our revenues.” 

On top of all the revenue losses for the township, there are extraordinary COVID-19 expenses, which will be difficult for Bloomfield and surrounding communities to handle.

“This is a $90 million budget, and with utilities that adds about $6 million more, so the budget is going up but only by 2.5% which is quite a feat given the circumstances,” Watkins said.  “On the average home, taxes are only going up about $10.”

As far as the property revaluations, the average house was valued at $273,000, and is now at $350,000.

“With that change comes a higher ratable, the rate is now 1.163%, which is only a 35-cent per-thousand rate change,” Watkins explained.  “However, we still will not have a certified tax rate until September 1 once the state adopts their budget, as the state has pushed their date back.”

The township is navigating through unchartered waters, not only with the budget, but with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are doing everything we can to make this as easy as possible for everyone given the circumstances – we are trying to predict all these unknowns,” Watkins added.  “This is what every city, county, and state government is having to go through right now.”

Watkins continued, “we are not doing any capital planning right now, as we are keeping everything as small as possible.  Capital projects that are ongoing now are for projects where the money was ready allocated in the previous budget.”

The promising news is that the curve in coronavirus cases has been in flattening in Bloomfield consistently over the past four weeks.

“In Bloomfield, the trending average peaked around April 11 and we have been dropping and on a nice downward trend with our caseload,” said Watkins.  “It is important to see that the trend-lines are getting better, not only here but in the county and the state.”

Even with the numbers steadily declining, Bloomfield will continue to do contact tracing and put other proactive measures in place.

“The trend has everyone in the same trajectory – we are all dropping,” said Mayor Michael Venezia.  “All of New Jersey and New York are in the same trend.  We will continue to work on contact tracing so that when things are opened up by the governor, we will not have a spike in the fall.  When employees re-enter town hall, their temperature will be taken, if it is over 99.2 degrees, they will be sent home or to a location for a COVID testing.”

Watkins added, “we have protocols in place and believe we are ready to provide our employees with a safe environment when they are able to return to work.”

Regarding Lionsgate phase two, there was discussion of a contract bid to be awarded for $4.5 million to finish the project with existing money.

“We are not asking for additional money from this year’s budget,” Watkins stressed.  “We want to get this done this year and we will ask for approval at our May 18 meeting with the winning contract bid.”

In other news from the meeting, the Bloomfield Center Alliance annual budget adoption will be pushed back due to a recent fire at their office.  Chelsea Fauci was appointed to the board of health, and the civil rights commission will hold a voter information session on May 27.

No public comments were submitted.

The Township Council holds its next Regular Meeting on Monday, May 18, 7 pm, which will be conducted via video conference and livestreamed.