Municipal taxes are going down this year in Moorestown.
The Moorestown Town Council unanimously approved the 2016 budget on final reading at its May 23 meeting. The average assessed home of $441,700 will pay a total of $1,810.97 per year in municipal taxes, which is a decrease of $8.83.
“I am proud that the budget passed tonight maintains our town’s stellar services while easing the tax burden on our residents,” Mayor Phil Garwood said. “Tax relief has always been the №1 issue on the minds of our neighbors, and because of the hard work done by Town Council and township staff, we are proud to deliver this victory for the Moorestown taxpayer.”
The total appropriations for the budget are $23.9 million, which is an $89,000 or 0.037 percent, increase over last year. According to Chief Financial Officer Tom Merchel at a previous meeting, this is offset by a decrease in group insurance and net decrease in grants. Revenues have also increased by $42,023, which includes a decreased reliance on surplus, an increase in MRA and delinquent taxes.
The water and sewer utility budget is $11.1 million, which is an increase over last year of $1.92 million. This is due to the purchase of water from New Jersey American Water, the temporary treatment solution for Wells 7 and 9, capital improvements and debt service. All of this is covered by surplus.
From the current fund surplus, Moorestown will be using $1.8 million for this year’s budget and $2.79 million from the utility surplus. This leaves $5.17 million in the fund surplus and $4.27 million in the utility surplus.
The tax levy total is $16.4 million, with $14.8 million for the municipal budget and $1.58 million for the library, which is an increase of $46,977. However, from all of the offsets, the 2016 tax rate is $0.410 per $100 of assessed property value, which is a decrease from last year of $0.412.
The budget allows for full-time and part-time employee staffing to increase from 79.5 to 81.5. Decreases have been made in administration and public works staffing, but there were increases in recreation and construction staff. There also have been no cuts of programs.
Various members of council thanked those who helped with the budget for their hard work. Deputy Mayor Victoria Napolitano spoke positively on the decrease in taxes, compared to last year when she was against the budget increase.
“I’m proud to lower taxes,” Napolitano said.
In other news:
• The rumor that Utility Superintendent Bill Butler has resigned from his position was confirmed at the meeting. Township Manager Scott Carew announced that Butler submitted his two weeks notice and has already started his new job. Butler was also in charge of the Department of Public Works, with Acting Director Kenneth Ewers out on medical leave.
The delay in this information being released to the public has caused some uproar. Carew said he couldn’t go into details because it involves personnel.
Carew said Butler’s positions are being replaced by four people temporarily. Those individuals are George Hauber, Doug Nims, Wayne McEwan and Albert Vallen.
Hauber is the former Maple Shade township manager and handled the Public Works and Utilities Department for 20 years in that position. He will be serving part-time as the interim director of public works.
Nims, a current township employee, is the second in command as public works supervisor.
McEwan and Vallen are splitting the duties of the utility superintendent. McEwan is the operator in charge of the Water Department and has several certifications in both water and sewer management. He holds a T2 certificate for water treatment and is pursuing a T3 certification.
Vallen is in charge of the Sewer Department, and also holds four certifications, including a T3. He also holds a S3 for sewer and is pursuing his S4.
According to Carew, Moorestown has informed the state Department of Environmental Protection of the changes, and the township is looking into its options for a permanent solution.
• The township still has not heard back on the approval of the temporary treatment solution from NJDEP. According to Carew, Maple Shade, which is looking for approval for its water treatment, has been waiting awhile for approval as well.
• Council unanimously approved two ordinances on second reading, one for the reconstruction of the Second Street municipal parking lot and the other for the reconstruction of the hockey rink at Wesley Bishop Park. Both projects are planned to start during the summer.
• Proclamations were given to Moorestown resident Walter Evans, children of the MooreKids Teen Leadership Committee and those involved in Moorestown’s Relay for Life.
• Chet Dawson gave a presentation to council with an update on Strawbridge Lake. His presentation included an overview of 2015, findings and potential future problems, and action recommendations for improvement of the lake.
• The next council meeting set for June 6 is cancelled. The next council meeting will be June 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall with a 7 p.m. workshop.