LIVINGSTON, NJ — In conformance with the New Jersey state budget schedule, the Livingston Township Council made revisions and additions to the 2016 Municipal Budget and approved the Capital Budget at the Feb. 22 township council meeting, with the intention of introducing a completed budget at the public meeting on March 14.
After one more budget meeting on March 7, the Livingston Township Council hopes to comply with the state schedule by introducing the budget on March 14, holding a public hearing on April 25 and adopting a final budget the same day. According to Township Manager Michele Meade, the expected budget for 2016 is lower than the 2015 budget, costing residents approximately $53.60 per average $605,000 household.
“Basically I’m looking for your feedback and your thoughts,” said Meade. “Does this budget provide the services you’re looking to give to the community? Is there anything missing from it? Are there any services you’re looking to remove?”
Sharing minor updates with the mayor and council, Meade explained that the budget went up by $1.3 million due to the check presented to the town by Saint Barnabas Health, which will ultimately be spent toward the Madonna Field Project in 2016. Further discussion on this particular subject also confirmed the council’s unanimous decision to officially adopt a cork-based turf rather than a rubber-based one.
Other minor updates included the suggestion of maintaining the maximum $90,000 budget for shuttle-bus expenses, an expense that used $81,300 in 2015, and an increase in leaf collection budget to $355,000 due to increase in overtime, which would still be less than other towns in the area are spending.
“Some of it is a precaution,” said Meade, who was questioned about the necessity of the additional expense. “If we have any sort of heavy storm during leaf collection it takes longer to collect.”
Additions to that were absorbed into the proposal municipal budget included a $6000 addition to the human resources budget for department supervisor training, which will benefit the department heads, and $20,000 for an Agenda Software Program, which Meade said will benefit not only the council, but the planning and zoning boards, the library board, all department heads and other township committees as well.
“This is going to streamline our whole process.” Said Meade. “It’s going to improve our ability to get information out and right now we do a lot of duplication of effort, but this is all in one place. I certainly would not recommend this if I didn’t think it was worthwhile.”
According to Meade, the program was extremely successful in Randolph and other towns and said she believes it will help achieve her goal of having the agendas more easily accessible, easily edited, and easily pre-constructed. In order to achieve this goal, the council will budget $12,000 to the clerk’s office and $8,000 to the planning department to total $20,000 toward adopting the Agenda Software Program.
In the existing Capital Budget for 2016, money has been budgeted toward popular town projects including the Sidewalk Project and $71,000 for repairs to the softball and baseball fields at Livingston High School. In fact, ideas floated around to offer advertising banners placed under the scoreboards and the away team’s dugout during home games as a means of fundraising.
Moving the process forward, Councilman Mike Silverman said there were only a small handful of outstanding expenses in the budget report, particularly involving department heads, which will be addressed at the March 7 budget meeting. Silverman also stated that the council should have some form of over sight on overtime dollars in the police department. Otherwise, council members agreed that the meeting made good progress on the budget conversation and hopes to introduce it on time.