Council unanimously approves 2020-’21 budget for Berlin Borough

Homeowners will see tax increase of $42 on average

The Berlin Borough Council held its regularly scheduled meeting May 14 while also hosting the public hearing regarding the 2020-’21 budget, proposed at council’s April 9 meeting.

The 2020 General, Water, Sewer and Open Space Budget introduced at the virtual meeting in April appropriated $9,466,509.86 in general: $3,450,000 in water, $908,600 in sewer and $110,950 in open space.

According to Councilman Jake Miller, the budget remained unchanged at the public hearing late last week, and there were no comments from residents attending. The budget was approved unanimously during that meeting.

According to figures provided by Miller, the tax rate will increase by .018, going from .760 last year to .778 this year. For the average assessed home value in Berlin Borough of $233,729.72, residents can expect a tax increase of approximately $42.

During the May 14 meeting, council also approved the retirement of clerk Lois Sahina. With acting Administrator Charleen Santora filling in until the council can replace her, members also approved the hiring of Dwayne Harris for the position of municipal clerk with administrative duties, effective May 26.

According to The Trentonian newspaper, Harris resigned from his position as city clerk of Trenton, effective May 22. Harris was in the final year of a three-year appointment.

Council also passed three bond ordinances regarding various capital improvements to the water and sewer utility systems within Berlin Borough. One bond ordinance was for $1,477,225, while a second was for $1.055,000 and a final one was for $530,000. The Sun will follow up with these bond ordinances at a future date.

Council President Jim Pearce addressed residents’ concerns about executive orders from Gov. Phil Murphy, with some community members voicing displeasure at various declarations from the state level, such as bans on in-person shopping at retail stores and on large gatherings.

“A lot of the public has contacted us and they kind of want [Berlin Borough] to go against that, but I’m very uncomfortable doing that,” Pearce said. “I would rather follow what the executive orders are.”

Earlier this month, the Berlin Police Department shared on social media Gov. Murphy’s initial message on wave parades by residents that have been organized across the region and country to celebrate birthdays and other special events, and may soon be utilized to celebrate graduations.

Murphy’s original message seemed to indicate that any such gathering would be illegal. But   Solicitor Howard Long said the state caused confusion on the issue that he clarified.

“Here’s the rule: You may have graduation and birthday parades in vehicles … however, you cannot gather in a particular place, 40, 60, 80, 100 cars, they’re not encouraging that,” Long said. 

“They’re also not encouraging you to get out of your car (during such parades).”

Long said the state police helped clarify the issue. Residents who have further questions are advised to contact the municipal building.