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Township committee begins work on 2021 budget  

Officials allow purchase of 10 vehicles for police, fire departments

It’s budget season in Voorhees Township.

The township committee last month passed on first reading an ordinance that allows it to exceed municipal budget appropriation limits and establish a cap bank in the development of its 2021 budget.

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Township Administrator Larry Spellman said municipalities across the state typically are allowed to increase the current year’s budget appropriations by up to 2.5 percent from the previous year. But this year, the state authorized increases of up to only 1 percent due to COVID, causing the township to utilize the ordinance.

According to the proposed measure, a 3.5-percent increase in the appropriations limit would amount to $1,117,364.50. The proposed 2021 budget is not included in the ordinance, as the township continues to develop its proposed budget. That means a potential tax increase or decrease is unknown at this time.

Last year, the township passed a 5.9-cent increase in taxes from the previous year, for a total of 89.1 cents, meaning Voorhees residents with the average assessed home value of $259,460 saw an increase of approximately $157. A second reading of the ordinance is expected at the committee’s next session.

During the Feb. 22 meeting, the committee held a public hearing and passed upon second reading the issuing of a bond ordinance for $686,000, with $34,000 paid up front for the purchase of eight police department vehicles and two fire trucks.

According to the agenda, the period of usefulness for the police vehicles is five years and 10 years for the fire trucks. The costs for each department also cover any additional materials, equipment or necessary work required for the vehicles before they’re acquired.

As previously reported by The Sun, Spellman said the township has typically issued such bond ordinances for new vehicles closer to the adoption of the budget, but the township has recently begun issuing such bond ordinances around February and March in order to receive vehicles more quickly.

“Basically, once [all municipalities] adopt their budgets around April, then everyone in the state begins ordering their vehicles at the same time, since we’re all in the same budget cycle,” he explained. “If we order in April, we would normally expect to get vehicles in November or December, but by ordering them in February, we can get them here a lot sooner.”

Spellman also said the township typically purchases about five new vehicles per year as it annually updates and replenishes its stock. But since the committee was only able to order two vehicles last year because of the financial crunch brought on by COVID, the township this year was getting caught up on its fire and police vehicle stock.

“We normally try to order five or six vehicles a year, since with 50 or so officers driving around each year, we usually cycle through that many,” Spellman added. “But because we only ordered two last year, we’re purchasing a few more this year to try to catch up.”

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