By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Cherry Hill Sun
Cherry Hill will face some old challenges in the New Year, but will also have some exciting new changes as the township heads into 2010.
Similar to 2009, Mayor Bernie Platt said the township would face challenges in the yearly budget moving into 2010. With changes in Trenton, it’s unknown at this time what Cherry Hill can expect in municipal aid or if other streams of revenue will be cut at the state level, he said.
Platt didn’t predict another round of layoffs for municipal employees. In 2009 the township consolidated several municipal departments and froze salaries for any non-union employees to reduce costs.
“We really won’t do any downsizing this year except possibly through attrition. We might not fill several of the open spots that we have, but right now we’re at a skeleton staff,” he said. “If we do anymore downsizing, we may have to start cutting services, and I don’t want to do that. I won’t do it if I can help it.”
However, it will again be a challenging budgetary year. With uncertainties in Trenton and at the local level, Platt said the township needs to find consistent new streams of revenue or ways to cut costs. One such way is to increase shared services, which Platt said representatives are already focusing on for 2010.
One such stream of revenue that is a very real possibility for Cherry Hill will be providing the nearby municipality of Merchantville with department of public works services, Platt said. Merchantville has a relatively small DPW, he said, and talks for Merchantville to pay a fee to Cherry Hill for its DPW services are fairly far along.
“They have a very small department of public works, it would not take much for us to take over the whole department and they would pay us to do so,” Platt said.
“It’s an interesting concept that would help both Merchantville and Cherry Hill. We’re just talking right now, nothing has been agreed to yet.”
The capital program will again be carried out for 2010, Platt said, but with less funding than 2009. The Caldwell Road resurfacing project will likely be completed by the spring, he said, with the historic roadway receiving a completely new surface.
Included in the capital program is an increase in the township wide sewer tax rate. Council approved an increase in the sewer rates for residential homes and large commercial properties in Cherry Hill. Any home connected to the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority treatment system, the ordinance states, will pay a charge of $95 a year. Senior citizens will pay a charge of $85.50.
It’s an increase of about $20 a year for residents, Chief of Staff Dan Keashen said. Senior citizens will see an increase of about $18.
“We’ll be maintaining our roads, our infrastructure, and that’s also one of the reasons we increased the sewer fees,” Platt said.
“The increase will help to fix what we need to fix with our sewer works.”
Three new hybrid vehicles are also going to be incorporated into the DPW fleet, Platt said, replacing three of the department’s Ford Broncos that use a high amount of gasoline.
Additionally, the police department will utilize a new dispatching service and program that will reduce the number of officers needed to man the dispatch office. This, Platt said, will allow more police officers to be on the street instead of dealing with dispatch services and sitting behind a desk.
The new dispatch will be integrated into the township on Jan. 25, Platt said, and has been fully funded by a grant from the state.
A new township-wide program will also be available for the thousands of senior citizen residents who live in Cherry Hill.
A dedicated phone line for senior citizen services will be available by the first of 2010, Platt said, to offer information and news about specialized programs and events for Cherry Hill senior citizens.