Council approves 2020 budget introduction with decrease in local taxes

Members also pass establishment of human rights advisory council for Evesham

The Evesham Township Municipal Building, where township council typically holds its meetings.

Evesham Township council unanimously approved the introduction of a 2020 municipal budget during its regular June 9 meeting, a plan that will see a decrease in local taxes.

Township CFO Elizabeth Peddicord presented the budget preview during the remote council session. At a proposed amount of $38,810,888.84, the 2020 budget is $768,655.73 less than 2019’s, and, if approved, comes with a $4.84 tax decrease on the average assessed home. 

“This only shows an overall decrease,” Peddicord advised, before she explained the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the budget. “But in all actuality, there’s a lot more that goes into this. We’ve estimated $1.5 million in revenue losses based upon the last three months of activity. ”

The budget summary reflected $1,502,000 of estimated revenue losses factored into this year’s calculations. They included losses in fees and permits ($20,000); licensing fees ($24,000); delinquent taxes ($196,000); and items that are at higher risk for further decreases in the 2021 budget, like court fees of $275,000, already on the decline because of bail reform and other related newer laws, and construction fees ($500,000). 

However, Peddicord said that four grants are anticipated to account for a total of $333,693.50 in areas like recycling costs and municipal parks funding, up from last year’s grant total of $121,019.64. Township Manager Robert Corrales further expounded on numerous grants the township is in the process of applying for and actively seeking.

Looking ahead, Peddicord warned that while state aid has historically been “pretty level” in previous years, “we do not know where it’s going to go next year,” a concern the township is keeping on its radar. But, as she later reminded everyone in attendance at the  meeting, to best err on the side of fiscal caution, “financially, we’re never optimistic.”

The budget will now need to be reviewed and approved at the state level.

To view the budget preview presentation, visit evesham-nj.org/index.php/mayor-council/council-meeting-videos and begin watching the June 9 council meeting’s video at the 12-minute mark. 

Among the resolutions passed over the course of the three-hour meeting, Mayor Jaclyn Veasy announced the creation of the Evesham Human Rights Advisory Council, in response to an increasing number of not only local residents but also Americans nationwide endeavoring to fight systematic inequality and injustice. 

The advisory council is still a work in progress, but Deputy Mayor Heather Cooper explained why the township is addressing a long-simmering issue that has erupted in the face of national reports of racially motivated violence. 

“The past two weeks have been very heavy on the community,” Cooper said,” referring to nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. “The comments and feedback from students and the youth in our community reminded us that we have to consider the needs of the community, that … when it comes to something like a human relations advisory council, we are offering an opportunity for the public to engage with us and to participate in their government. A lot of people were looking for space to have a forum or get together with people of diverse backgrounds.”

Early in the meeting, Veasy issued a proclamation for the Cherokee High School class of 2020 in recognition of its spirit and strength during a tumultuous, non-traditional school year, signing 550 certificates that each honored a  graduating senior. 

“(Graduates) of the Cherokee High School class of 2020 faced not only the normal rigors of high school but the added challenges of receiving their education while during a global pandemic,” according to the proclamation Veasy read. “[They] lost not only in-classroom learning but the ability to experience a wide range of cherished high school pastimes normally afforded to those in the final half of their senior year.  

“Nonetheless, the Cherokee High School class of 2020 took these challenges in stride and persevered through any and all obstacles blocking their path to successfully obtaining a high school diploma,” Veasy said, adding that they “have exhibited a level of respect and reverence for finishing their high school education that they may reflect on with great pride for the rest of their lives.”

One of those seniors was Sara Allway, the class of 2020 valedictorian and president of the township’s roughly 30-member Youth Advisory Council (YAC), a group of civically minded middle- and high-school students who give back to their community. 

Allway presented an end-of-the-year wrap-up that highlighted all that the township’s YAC has done, stretching from last summer’s Fourth of July 5K and National Night Out to a card-writing campaign that first sent well wishes to those living in long-term care facilities and then notes of gratitude to the township’s first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other events included a softball tournament, community dinner, animal adoption event and food drive. 

Allway also explained that the YAC executive board pursues its own project for the township, with this year’s initiative seizing upon the upcoming election to educate the next generation about the importance of being educated voters and casting their votes. The group has also been disseminating information about how to register, why it’s important to use one’s vote and candidate information. 

In recognition of her role as YAC president, council bestowed Allway with a Power Of One Award, which honors the difference just one person can make. 

“Sara, we are so proud of you and so impressed by you and all the hard work that you’ve done,” Veasy said on behalf of the council, itemizing the volunteer work, extracurricular activities and board positions the YAC president has to her credit.