Council begins work on 2021 budget

Approved ordinance sets amount of potential increase

It is once against budget season in Gloucester Township, and on Feb. 8, council unanimously approved the first reading of a proposed ordinance to exceed the municipal budget appropriation limits and establish a cap bank.

The annual proposal allows the township to increase its budget by up to 3.5 percent over the prior year’s appropriations — instead of the 2.5 percent cap — while banking the excess.

According to the ordinance, the proposed increase amounts to approximately $1,416,664, while the 3.5 percent increase amounts to approximately $1,983,331.

The proposed 2021 budget was not included in the ordinance.

Last year, council voted 6 to 1 in favor of passing a tax rate increase in June that grew from 3.966 to 4.050. Residents with the average assessed property value of $188,000 saw their taxes increase approximately $156  due to the budget. Councilwoman Andrea Stubbs cast the lone no vote against the proposed increase.

Also during the recent meeting, council approved a resolution allowing the township treasurer to make transfers between reserves in the prior year’s budget and this year’s budget, due to an expectation that the rest of the fiscal year’s budget appropriation reserve balances will not last.

According to the passed resolution, such reserves can be transferred during the first three months of the year. The proposal calls for moving $61,000 from street repair, splitting the amount with group health insurance, sanitation and township attorney fees for $45,000, $15,000 and $1,000, respectively.

Business Administrator Tom Cardis indicated at the meeting there is the potential for additional transfers to be made from the township’s 2020 reserves by the chief financial officer. But he did not say if that is expected.

Council also discussed the township’s upcoming public hearing on changes being made to the Community Development Block Grant plan, which is being amended to include $673,546 in additional funding through the federal CARES Act.

The hearing on Feb. 16 is to allow all interested residents, groups and organizations to address the $493,426 set aside for the township.

But according to Cardis, none of the funds will help residents struggling to pay their rent. Instead, the money will be utilized for various COVID-related sanitation, equipment and supplies for township buildings, while also offering grant opportunities for small township businesses.

The portal where businesses can apply for financial assistance is expected to go live on the township’s website about a week after the public hearing, according to Cardis.