Commissioners take first step to approve cap bank for 2020 budget

Ordinance will allow appropriations to increase by 1 percent.

At its latest public meeting, Haddonfield’s board of commissioners gave its initial consent to a 1-percent boost over the maximum allowable increase within its final budget package for 2020.

During that May 26 virtual session, the three-person body, upon first reading, approved an ordinance that will allow the borough to exceed the state-mandated 2.5-percent increase over the previous year’s final budget amount. 

According to language in the ordinance, the expected 1-percent increase via the ordinance would increase the borough’s 2020 allotment by almost $124,000, with the entire 3.5-percent extension in the budget set to add nearly $434,000 to the total appropriations. 

“We do this resolution annually to preserve the cap bank for our municipal budget,” said Commissioner for Revenue and Finance Jeffrey Kasko. “We are allowed to go up to 3.5 percent each year, so that, if necessary, our final budget can go up to that amount in appropriations.

“I can tell you that we’re reviewing with the treasurer, tax collector and CFO on tax collections, which may be down this year with everything going on. And we don’t have state aid confirmed yet,” Kasko added. 

“It’s a little bit up in the air, and all I can tell you is that I think revenues will be down and we will have a tight budget situation this year. We might have to make some decisions both this year and next year as far as budget amount.”

Kasko did not venture a guess on a time frame for budget completion. Second reading and public hearing on the ordinance are scheduled for the commissioners’ next public meeting on June 9. 

A subsequent resolution was unanimously approved by the board, authorizing it to conduct an annual budget self-examination. The move comes after the chief financial officer of the Division of Local Government Services determined the borough met all criteria to participate for the 2020 budget year. 

Kasko added the borough will also undergo an independent audit of last year’s finances in the near future.

Regarding the ongoing adjustments to protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, Commissioner for Public Safety Colleen Bianco Bezich praised borough emergency and safety personnel for their continued work under adverse circumstances. 

“We’re staying in touch  — myself, (borough administrator) Sharon McCullough, Chief (Jason) Cutler — constantly with police, fire and emergency medical services and going over how we can get them things they need to continue to do the job,” Bezich said.

She added that the Haddon Fire Company No. 1 recently received a grant of approximately $900 from New Jersey American Water for a specific piece of protective equipment. 

On the question of opening up the downtown business district, Mayor Neal Rochford has had multiple ongoing conversations with downtown business owners to figure out a feasible way to open up the district to outdoor seating. Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order that gatherings of up to 25 people would be allowed outdoors.

“We’re waiting for more guidance from the governor. It seems day to day that more things are opened up, but he’s not 100 percent on opening everything,” Rochford said.

In other news:

  • Commissioners proclaimed Friday, June 5, as National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the borough to honor a young woman killed mere weeks after marching in then-President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade, as well as to note that COVID-19 social restrictions are potentially giving rise to intimate partner gun violence deaths and suicide by firearm. A vigil, held outside borough hall for last year’s commemoration, is expected to occur at a later date.
  • The triumverate also approved a three-year cooperation agreement with Camden County through 2023, for the county to provide joint services to the borough regarding development of affordable housing. 
  • In addition, borough governance also voted to install Keith Raveling as the borough’s interim electrical, plumbing, building and fire inspector, beginning June 1, 2020 and ending May 31, 2021.