One of the key responsibilities of our township council is to plan an annual budget. The first step is a discussion with the Township Manager and the CFO so that they know the goals of our Mayor and Council. Then they work with the various department heads with those goals in mind. Once a draft budget is completed, our Council holds several open public meetings to review the details of that draft budget, as well as the draft Capital Program Budget for the next 5 years.
Our goal last year was to maintain the tax levy with no increase in municipal spending; we achieved that goal, and were very happy with that result. Our goal this year was to do our best to keep the municipal tax levy the same for a second year in a row without sacrificing services to our residents. With a lot of hard work and careful planning, we were able to achieve that goal as well. So for the last two years, our township budget remained the same, with no increase in the municipal tax levy! This is a major accomplishment, not often seen in government, and we are all proud of the end result. The Final Budget was introduced on Thursday, March 22nd. The Budget will be formally adopted on Thursday, April 19th.
Another area that was recently addressed is the new park planned for 90 acres on Calais Road and our Parks, Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The Trust is supported by the Parks, Recreation and Open Space tax established by a referendum vote of the residents of Randolph Township. The fund may only be used for the specific purpose of Open Space and Recreation. The “90 acres” property was donated to the township by SJC Builders in 2013. With much input from Township Residents, it was decided that the new park was an opportunity to add recreational amenities that did not currently exist in our other parks. French & Parello, an engineering firm specializing in park design, was retained by the township for the project, and worked in conjunction with a steering committee comprised of representatives from the Township Council, staff, and members of the Parks and Recreation Committees to prepare the park plan. The project plan was presented for public comment at a public hearing held in the fall of 2017. At their meeting on October 12, 2017, the Township Council approved the final design plans for the new park.
The park development was included in the 2016 Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The Master Plan was the result of a year-long planning process and is the policy document on which decisions regarding township parks and recreation facilities and services will be guided and supported over the next ten years. The 125+ page plan document, which can be viewed in full on the township website, reflects the community input collected throughout the process from mediums such as public workshops, citizen surveys, online suggestions, and more. Prior to its adoption, the plan was also presented at a public hearing, and discussed at several other public meetings by the Township Council.
The design for the park includes an amphitheater, a 1/4 mile paved, lighted walkway loop, a community garden, picnic pavilions, pickleball courts, paved and natural trails, a bathroom facility and multiple open areas for passive recreation, and public events. Since this project will be funded by the Parks & Recreation/Open Space Trust, the project will require no increase in municipal taxes, and will not divert any dollars from the township’s general operation budget which supports all other municipal services. A rendering of the park plan is available on the township website at www.randolphnj.org
Mark H. Forstenhausler