The Voorhees Township Committee had its bimonthly session on June 14 and passed a 2021-2022 municipal budget on second reading, without the usual public hearing.
“It’s my 16th year doing this, and we’ve never had a year without public comment on the budget,” said township Administrator Larry Spellman at the virtual session.
The budget was delayed because the committee waited to receive guidance from the state on how to use COVID funding. Though members hoped that money could be used to offset revenue lost last year, that was not the case, given that the funds are only for specific items like sewer projects or affordable housing.
The total budget for this year will be $43,552,000, with the average taxpayer paying $2,389 per year, or $199 per month. That is an increase of $6.46 per month on an average assessed home compared with last year, when taxpayers paid $2,312 dollars a year, or $192 a month.
While the federal government mandates that COVID funding can’t be used to offset revenue losses, according to Spellman, it is still somewhat unclear what it does apply to.
“We can use it for sewer projects, which will save us money; we’d have to bond it,” he explained. “We can use this for affordable housing and other affordable housing help. We can use it to look at affordable housing in town by looking at those funds, but even on that, we’re still waiting on a definitive answer.
“We don’t want to do something and have it later determined that it was done impertinently,” added Spellman, who said the COVID money is considered a grant. “But it’s still so vague as far as exactly what you can spend the money on.”
The committee approved resolutions during the meeting to apply for various grants, in the hope that funds will be received for projects to improve the town’s infrastructure. The grant applications include improvements to Maiaroto Park, the first phase of repavement for Laurel Oak Road, a new sidewalk on Evesham Road from 2401 East Evesham Road to 8000 Main St. and the extension of bike trails from Haddonfield Berlin Road to Northgate Drive to Hamilton Elementary School. The applications don’t guarantee funding will come, but they must be submitted for consideration.
Spellman anticipates that the committee will continue meeting over Zoom throughout the summer, and will consider moving back to in person sessions in the fall. On June 21, the committee will hold a workshop over Zoom starting at 6:30 p.m. The link will be available on the Voorhees Township website, https://voorheesnj.com.
The committee’s next meeting will be a virtual session on Monday, June 28, starting at 7 p.m.