LIVINGSTON, NJ — In preparation of Livingston Township’s annual municipal budget, Chief Financial Officer Kim Kientz and Acting Township Manager Russ Jones initiated this year’s budget conversation at Monday’s council meeting with a summary of the capital requests and/or recommendations for each of the township’s departments.
According to Jones, all recommendations were in compliance with the financial policies that were adopted by the township. He also stated that the township had reduced its debt by about 90 percent this year and that the township should be servicing more debt in 2018 than in 2017.
Some highlights of this year’s municipal budget, according to Kientz and Jones, are that most of the projects covered in the budget are valid, and that some departments agreed to defer projects to future years; that many of the major projects are related to infrastructure; and that all projects involving the safety of residents, employees or otherwise were included in the budget. They also noted that although some departments conceded to wait on certain projects, these projects might be more costly later on.
Some of the projects that were cut out of this year’s budget and deferred to next year include re-paving certain streets.
“You guys know just as well as I do that there are a lot of streets in town that are in need of re-paving,” said Township Engineer Jeanette Harduby. “We came up with a capital improvement program about 10 years ago that estimated us spending between $3 and $4 million a year on each of the streets. We re-evaluate the streets pretty much every other year…and we prioritize based on the worst streets first.”
The engineering department does these evaluations in conjunction with the Department of Public Works (DPW), which provides input on where the money would be best spent.
“The less money we get, the fewer streets that are re-paved, unfortunately,” said Harduby. “But we make do. [The DPW] ends up doing more pot holes, and they end up doing more large-area patching.”
It was also noted that the goal is to keep approximately 10 percent of desired road repairs within the capital budget each year. In 2018, Harduby said the township is lucky if it can complete about half of that, but that the budget does cover several drainage studies to be conducted on roads like Morningside, Elmwood, Chestnut and seven or more other locations that receive frequent complaints about drainage.
Additional major projects being pushed off for the time being include major improvements to Memorial Park (the area between the Oval and Littell People’s Park), although the council discussed implementing pathways and signage and closing off sections of the park.
“[The park] is past its life expectancy and I can’t get any of the parts to fix that, so we’re closing sections of it,” said Mike Anello, DPW superintendent, who added that some sections of the park are currently considered safety hazards.
Some projects that were kept in the budget include the zoning and development of a new DPW site, a traffic study to be conducted on South Livingston Avenue and a program that will enhance the safety of the township’s fire department members.
As the budget conversation continues, the council thanked all of the township’s department heads for being cooperative and supportive during budgeting, specifically acknowledging Fire Chief Chris Mullin, who was present at Monday’s meeting, for being instrumental in the budget process for 2018.