RARITAN TWP., NJ - Two separate ordinances that would have authorized $934,193 in debt were rejected by Township Committee at a morning meeting Thursday.
One of the ordinances was devoted to roads and the other to vehicles and equipment.
Committee members Lou Reiner and Craig O’Brien each voted against the spending plans that totaled $983,361. Although Mayor Karen Gilbert, Deputy Mayor Michael Mangin and Committee member Richard Chen voted in favor of the borrowing, the vote failed because a super-majority of the Committee is required to approve new debt.
Included in one plan was $55,000 for a four wheel drive vehicle for the Police Department; $189,700 for Public Works equipment including a sander, mower, slab saw and mortar mixer; $30,000 for a pickup truck; $80,000 to buy and install a pole building; and $101,661 for the First Aid Squad and firefighters’ breathing apparatus.
The second $527,000 ordinance would have dedicated $135,000 for the Hampton Corner Road Flood project study; and $357,000 for road reconstruction in the area of Barton Estates and Rake and Hardscrabble roads.
Chen said he favored allocating some funds to road repairs every year. “Some of our township roads are in disarray ... I get that complaint all the time from our residents,” he said.
“Everything that’s in both of these ordinances are important for the township to move forward,” Mangin said. “I feel like sometimes it’s moving backwards. It’s also $600,000 less than last year ... I think all of these should be approved.”
In an interview, Reiner said about $310,000 of the spending “could have been put on the back burner” and that the remaining spending could have been paid from the township’s $1.4 million surplus. He said he expects the township to collect an additional $1 million surplus over the next six months, further reducing the need to borrow money.
No one from the public commented during the public hearings on the ordinances.
During the public comment portion at the end of the meeting, Police Chief Glenn Tabasko told the Committee he was disappointed.
“There are a few things we need to operate the Police Department. One of them is vehicles,” the chief said. “We’ve been in a vehicle crisis for a number of years and it seems like we finally got it straightened out the last couple of years. I know that you’re concerned about the taxpayers and what people think” but they trust officials to make budget decisions, Tabasko added.
“There’s nobody here complaining about the budget,” he said. “There was no one at the budget meetings complaining about the budget.
“I just find it offensive on my end to try and run a police department knowing we need certain equipment and have those basic needs denied,” Tabasko said.
“You may not hear anyone complaining here that about taxes, but certainly we know New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation,” answered resident Barbara Sachau. “It is an issue. That feeling is out there. We can’t ignore that.”
The mayor said it’s “back to the drawing board” and that she’d work to get a plan that the Committee could approve.