CHATHAM BOROUGH, NJ -The Chatham Borough Council unanimously adopted its 2012 municipal budget, which includes a seven percent local tax levy increase, at its meeting Monday night.

The $13,424,938 budget is down 1.5 percent from 2011.The property tax increase on the average Chatham Borough home, assessed at $658,500, is $172. The borough remains under the two percent tax levy cap. Cap exclusions include pension, capital improvement and debt service increases and new ratable adjustments to the tax levy.

Councilman James Lonergan noted that borough officials are considering the possibility of selling some uniquely shaped properties that would help increase the tax base.  

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In other business, council members discussed the scaling back of the Kings Road improvement project. The state Department of Transportation denied the borough’s grant requests for milling, repaving and pedestrian safety devices such as flashing safety signs but approved a grant application for sidewalks which amounted to $65,000. The borough was expecting $150,000.

Borough Engineer Vince DeNave said the grant would cover sidewalk installation on the north side of Kings Road from the CVS parking lot to Division Avenue. DeNave said the originally planned project could have been done for $90,000.

Noting that Kings Road was one of the “worst roads in town,” Councilman James Collander said that installing the sidewalks was the most important part of the project for safety reasons. Councilman Len Resto agreed that the sidewalks should be done and that other aspects of the project could be done “incrementally” going forward.

DeNave said that 70 percent of Kings Road residents agreed sidewalks should be installed but that a consensus could not be reached on other safety devices such as flashing signs because “no one wants them in front of the their house,” he said.

With the Farmers’ Market season almost here, Councilman John Holman opened a discussion on the market’s structure. Holman said the committee was at a “crossroads” deciding whether it should go private.

In its infancy a few years ago, the market had “a few vendors and made a few thousand dollars,” Holman said. “Now, there’s 30+ vendors and it makes over $20,000 in revenues.”

Holman said the committee is thinking about how to grow the market, wondering if it can address the issue in its current structure. The market uses borough resources such as the Department of Public Works and the accounting and engineering departments. Holman is concerned that as the market continues to grow, it could need more borough employees’ time. Capital improvements such as electricity and water sources were made but Holman said the market would require more capital expenses that “kill us.” He noted the need for a petty cash system, more advertising and banners.

“It’s a good problem. Not a bad problem,” said Holman, adding that the market would operate this year in the current structure. He also posed the question, “How big do we want to go?”

“Should we be in the business? Is it government or private?” mused Collander, who suggested that the committee recommend two models of other towns’ markets for the council to review.