The Voorhees Township Committee voted to approve its 2019 budget at its meeting Monday, May 13 at the Voorhees Town Center by a vote of 4-1. The proposed budget was introduced at $39,964,000 last month, and was not changed. The total amount to be raised by taxation is $26,595,000.
According to Township Administrator Larry Spellman, residents with the average assessed home value of $258,965 can expect an increase of approximately $49 this year.
The committee’s lone Republican, Michael Friedman, was the only vote against the budget, stating he was not “happy” with the end budget and he felt “there is more that should be done.”
Friedman said there are certainly things about the budget to applaud, however he feels a tax increase could have been avoided by taking a deeper dive into township finances and issues.
“The positives are that the Jake’s Place is phenomenal, what a great idea … I’m glad we’re doing that,” said Friedman. “We do a nice job with our road program every year, and I’m glad we’re spending money on that.”
“I’m all supportive of all those initiatives,” added Friedman. “There are things that still bug me though; I think we still overpay a lot of our professionals … I’m a bit discouraged, I’ve talked with [Chief Louis Bordi] about the overtime with the fire department.”
Friedman also talked about wanting to create more revenue streams for the township to help ease the burden on taxpayers. For example, he pointed out that the township passed a naming rights sponsorship ordinance where businesses and companies could pay to name township property, such as parks, bus stops or other areas, several years ago.
However, since its passing, the township has not had a single naming rights agreement.
Deputy Mayor Jason Ravitz said he is proud of the work the committee was able to do in creating a budget that called for a “marginal” increase in taxes, while also saying the increase is helping go toward new programs and while helping create a surplus.
“I think putting some more money to go to programs, to go to increased costs and also to a budget surplus is a healthy thing to do for a rainy day,” said Ravitz.
In an interview with The Sun last month, township officials said there are numerous improvements that will be made around the township through the budget. Some $1.5 million is being devoted to continued maintenance of locally owned roads, while a $200,00 municipal aid grant from the state Department of Transportation will help install a sidewalk along Kirkbride Road near the Voorhees Town Center to create a safer path for residents.
Additionally, the budget also allows for the hiring of five full-time firefighters with the Voorhees Fire Department and one EMT, with three of the firefighters being new hires. According to Deputy Mayor Michelle Nocito, the township is continuing to work toward building a volunteer firefighter program within Voorhees Township.
“There’s still a high percentage of volunteer fire departments in our country … and it’s deeply routed in American history,” said Nocito in a previous interview with The Sun. “But today, with a lot of competing priorities that families face and with working households, people just can’t put the time in that they would like to.”
As much of the country continues to deal with a decrease in volunteers for local fire departments, the issue is not unique to Voorhees Township.
Lastly regarding the budget, Ravitz said the township set aside $100,000 last year for opioid awareness and addiction help by creating a diversion program with the township court, and was able to roll forward money to this year’s budget as it looks to continue to alleviate the addiction crisis, at least locally.
In other news:
- Resident Robin Homer asked the committee about the future and structural integrity of the potential Jake’s Place playground, after a playground for developmental disabled children in Voorhees Township was torn down years ago due to insurance reasons after years of deterioration.
- Mayor Michael Mignogna presented a proclamation in honor of Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday, June 7 to support the goal of ending gun violence in the United States. Moms Demand Action was in attendance for the proclamation and took a picture with the committee.