Haddonfield commissioners approved a 2022 budget on second reading in front of a full audience on June 27, before hearing resident opinions about implementing fall soccer.
The budget totals $21,434,279.04, a $0.024-cent increase from last year that will cost taxpayers an additional $127 a year for the average assessed home of $512,368.
Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough reminded residents that the municipal budget makes up only 16 to 17 percent of the tax bills they will receive in July and explained that prices increased in several areas, including gas and diesel, recycling and initiation of a new master plan that includes hiring a new planner and $25,000 for the planning board.
McCullough said the borough wants to invest in a six-month program for the fire department to improve safety in the borough; only 19 of the 41 volunteers in the department are Haddonfield residents and it can be difficult for them to respond to calls during the day.
“We’re trying to determine a way (to improve the fire department) without going to a fully paid fire department, which this town cannot afford right away,” McCullough explained. “… We’re looking at stipend services, we’re looking at hiring a couple of full-time people, or part-time people, shared services.
“We’re looking at the most economical way to continue to provide safe Haddonfield.”
The commissioners also passed an amendment to the Shade Tree Commission ordinance that says any person who removes or causes damage to a tree will pay a replacement assessment to the borough that will go to a damaged tree replacement fund.
Introduced on first reading was an ordinance that allows the borough to do emergency medical service billing through a third-party rather than having it done through the Haddonfield Ambulance Association. McCullough noted that the association is no longer able to move forward with billing, and that by bringing the billing in-house, the borough can offset some costs that are higher than salaries.
During public comments, residents continued to share what Crow’s Woods field and the Haddonfield Soccer Club meant to them as they tried to find a solution that will allow kids to play in the fall, since the fields were previously considered “unplayable” by league referees.
Kids, parents and community members gave varying perspectives, starting with a focus on Crow’s Woods and ending with a larger call to look at all the fields and see if there are large-scale improvements that can be done. Commissioner Kevin Roche noted that the borough has agreed to pay the full costs of sodding Crow’s Woods field, but discussion surrounding the maintenance reimbursement for the club is ongoing.
As soccer club President Amy Henry noted, the club maintains the fields year round by planting grass, protecting it in winter and keeping it mowed, at a cost of roughly $66,000 a year, $20,000 of which has typically been reimbursed by the borough.
“The main focus should be, how can we keep these kids here (in town) and how can we work on a very transparent level with all the other clubs that aren’t in this situation?” said Jim Bonder, director of coaching for the soccer club.
“This town can do amazing things, and this is just another roadblock to see how we can work together.”
The next commissioner’s workshop will be on July 11 at 6:30 p.m.