Here is the update to my original June 18th post, now with answers!
Did Highlands qualify for any of the state DCA money mentioned in this article? If yes, how much? If not, why? http://www.app.com/story/news/local/ocean-county/sandy-recovery/2014/06/10/sandy-aid-ocean-county/10302185/ This is for essential services and Highlands received funding in a previous round and we haven’t spent down that money.
When can we expect an update from the finance committee? Per Mayor Nolan during the 6/18 council meeting, the Finance Committee will be meeting within the next 10 days. He has asked Becky Kane for available dates. Also, there may be more people appointed to the committee but he is waiting for Doug Card to be sworn in as he may have some input on committee members. ***July 17th update: the Finance Committee still has not met
Does the town pay the school district for the meetings held in the gym? Per Tara Ryan 6/18 – no, the town does not. ***July 17th update: the town does pay for the custodial services, so there is a cost associated with our need to hold meetings while borough hall is damaged.
There are so many committees in town. Why don’t they give regular updates? For example, the environmental commission, shade tree, substandard housing, etc. After a discussion with Tim, he will work with the council and the committees to include a summary report in the agenda. We agreed that the meetings would be too long if every committee gave a detailed update but also see the need for everyone to stay informed on what the groups are focusing on.
What is the status of finding a communication tool for the residents? (ex: Nixle?) Tim thought this is being included with the web site committee’s work.
How much is in the Open Space trust fund? $155,000 rounded
Is the town getting reimbursed by FEMA for the 2014 lease of the borough trailers (municipal and police)? Yes, through Arcadia and the town is hoping to extend this through 2015. The reimbursement is 90% of the cost.
How much is left on the bond for the fire truck? Are there bonds on any of the other fire equipment? There was some confusion on this question. Pat thought I was asking for how much we are still able to spend on that bond when what I meant was how much debt is left to pay. He will follow up with me.
What spending cuts can you recommend? This is for everyone, not just Mr. De Blasio. Are you asking all borough employees for suggested cost savings? Recommendations and a review is completed prior the preparation of the budget. All departments are involved and some recent cost reductions were found in changing the cell phone contract, renegotiating other contracts, and changing the phone plan.
2014 Budget Quesitons: I was told that in general, 2013 was an “off year” as we were still recovering from Sandy and not all departments were running at 100%. The Community Center is a good example of that. In the coming months I will be working on an analysis of our budget and spending trends over the last 3 – 5 years.
- Sheet 12, Central Services – Other Expenses. Why was $37,000 budgeted when only $21,741.48 was spent in 2013? The budget was kept the same as 2014
- Sheet 12, Borough Council – Salaries and Wages. Why is there in increase? The mayor didn’t draw a salary until 2014
- Sheet 12, Borough Council – Other. What is this for? Why was $67,580 budgeted when only $13,928.02 was spent in 2013? This is for the grant writer
- Sheet 13, Assessment of Taxes – Other Expenses. Why was $48,205 budgeted when only $30,790.02 was spent in 2013? This is to cover the cost of the new county pilot program where 20% of the homes will be reassessed every year.
- Sheet 13, Legal Services, Other Expenses. What is this for? Why was $177,500 budgeted when only $120,124.15 was spent in 2013? The budget is decreasing year over year and the increase in spending is due to more employee contracts coming up for renewal.
- Sheet 14, Engineering Services and Costs. Why was $150,000 budgeted when only $114,000 was spent in 2013? This is based on the 2014 projects
- Sheet 14, Code Enforcement – Other Expenses. Why was $25,100 budgeted when only $6,738.91 was spent in 2013? This is for private property maintenance. The town will demolish homes and place a lien on the property so that the town will recoup the cost sometime in the future.
- Sheet 15, Police – Other Expenses. Why was $86,066 budgeted when only $63,140.80 was spent in 2013? This is for the purchase of ammunition for training.
- Sheet 15-1, Road Repair and Maintenance – Salaries and Wages. Why was $178,000 budgeted when only $153,809.15 was spent in 2013? In 2013 4 to 5 positions were covered by workforce development.
- Sheet 15-1, Road Repair and Maintenance – Other Expenses. Why was $55,000 budgeted when only $40,891.27 was spent in 2013? The budget was held at the same level as 2013 and spending was down because the DPW supervisor was not replaced
- Sheet 15-1, Snow Removal – Other Expenses. Why was $40,000 budgeted when only $18,039.11 was spent in 2013? The budget is the same as the prior 3 years. Spending will be up in 2014 due to the amount of snowfall.
- Sheet 15-2, Sanitation – Other Expenses. Why was $50,350 budgeted when only $32,861.00 was spent in 2013? Skipped
- Sheet 15-2, Public Buildings and Grounds – Other Expenses. Why was $80,000 budgeted when only $40,855.91 was spent in 2013? The budget is being reduced over the years and we had less maintenance in 2013 due to being in trailers.
- Sheet 15-2, Condominium Expenses. Why was $28,000 projected when only $5,951.94 was spent in 2013? The budget is based on maximum exposure and spending is based on the reimbursement requests submitted by condo associations.
- Sheet 15-3, Dog Control – Other Expenses. Why was $18,000 budgeted when only $6,165.00 was spent in 2013? Spending in 2013 was low because bills didn’t come through until 2014 and the animal control officer tries to mitigate. Also, the ASPCA TNR program was scaled back.
- Sheet 15-4, Community Center – Salaries and Wages. Why was $103,000 budgeted when only $77,979.02 was spent in 2013? In 2013 there was less staff and more down time while the 2014 budget is based on the community center being up & running for a full year.
- Sheet 15-4, Community Center – Other Expenses. Why was $25,000 budgeted when only $14,431.79 was spent in 2013? Same as salaries & wages for Community Center
- Sheet 16, Construction Code Official – Other Expenses. Why was $23,200 budgeted when only $4,146.44 was spent in 2013? This is for the new software for construction/code enforcement.
- Sheet 17, Electricity. Why was $60,000 budgeted when only $41,544.15 was spent in 2013? The 2013 spending only has 11 months of bills because the December bill is received in January. I asked why didn’t 2013 run from December ’12 – November ’13 (12 months) and was told that in the reporting to the state that the spending is adjusted and that adjustment is not reflected in this budget packet.
- Sheet 17, Telephone. Why was $32,000 budgeted when only $21,460.32 was spent in 2013? Same as explanation for Electricity.
- Sheet 17, Landfill/Solid Waste Disposal – Other Expenses. Why was $199,000 budgeted when only $166,2017.39 was spent in 2013? Even though there was continued clean up from the storm, there were fewer residents so the tipping fees were lower.
- Sheet 20, Length of Service Awards Program. Why was $45,000 budgeted and nothing paid in 2013? This is similar to the explanation for Electricity. The 2013 LOSAP awards had not been calculated yet so the 2013 spending does not reflect the awards yet. The first aid LOSAP was in last night’s agenda and the fire department should be received soon.
- Sheet 20, Employee Group Insurance. Why is nothing budgeted for 2014 when $14,505.79 was paid in 2013? This is formula driven and some insurance is in the cap and some is outside of the cap. There is $45k budgeted for 2014 outside of the cap.
- Sheet 22, Atlantic Highlands – Maintenance of Motor Vehicles. Why was $90,500 budgeted when only $41,760.58 was spent in 2013? The budget is down compared to prior years and the 2013 spending is down due to Atlantic Highlands having lower staff. Highlands is keeping up with the maintenance of the fleet but some general maintenance was not done due to the Atlantic Highlands staffing.
- Sheet 26, Capital Improvement Fund. Is there a minimum balance for this? How is this calculated? This is used for the down payments when bonds are issued. It is an estimate based on the projects anticipated for the year.
- Sheet 26, Firehouse Facility Upgrade and Equipment. What is this for? What exactly is being upgraded and/or purchased? There was a pipe break in the fire house over the winter. The insurance company has made suggestions to bring the fire house up to code. The items include communication equipment, moving the pipe, and making sure there are adequate electric outlets.
- Sheet 26, Restoration of Borough Hall. Why is nothing budgeted for 2014? The 2013 expense was for the clean up.
- Sheet 26, Firehouse Repairs and Equipment due to water pipe break. Did insurance cover the $50,000? Insurance reimbursed the town $70k for the incident.
- Sheet 27, Interest on Notes. Why is there an increase? Does the borough have the option of paying down the notes early? Is there a penalty for early payment of the principal? What is the interest rate on the notes? The increase is due to the emergency notes. They are issued for one year and the interest rate is between 0.90% and 2.0%. At the end of the year a small principal pay down is required and the notes rolled over. The town can pay down more principal if the cash is available.
- Sheet 27, Capital Lease Obligations. What is this for? Why was there no expense for this in 2013? This is for equipment (5 year leases) and police cars (3 year leases).
- Sheet 29, Reserve for Uncollected Taxes. Why is this less than 2013? This is formula driven and budgets for a 93% collection rate. Any late payments are charged 18% interest and the town does collect that. There is no waiving of the interest.
- Sheet 34, Sewer Rents. What is this for? Why is there a decrease? This is the fees paid by the town. There was some catch up in 2013 because the 4th quarter bills went out late in 2012 due to Sandy.
- Sheet 35, Water & Wastewater – Salaries & Wages. Why is $79,805 budgeted when only $66,379.64 was paid in 2013? The 2013 expense was lower due to a decrease in man hours, a decrease in overtime, and one position being vacant for part of 2013.
- Sheet 35, Water & Wastewater – Other Expense. Why was $1,152.838 budgeted, which is less than the $1,471,582.11 spent in 2013? The decrease is due to the anticipated cost savings after the dissolution of the AHH Regional Sewer Authority.
- Sheet 35, Debt Service. Can the bond principal be paid down early? What is the interest rate on the bonds? Bonds are different than the notes and some of them may not be callable (able to pay the principal early). The interest rates range between 2% and 5%.
Are there any plans to replace trees lost in recent years? Shore Drive is lacking in trees compared to just five years ago. Tim said he would look into this and we agreed that we have to keep in mind the root systems and placement so that the trees don’t impact power lines and our infrastructure (sidewalks, sewer, drain, roads, etc.). Shrubs and grasses were offered as an alternative.
Status of the community center – when can we start repairs? The town is still working with FEMA and is awaiting approval of the formal mitigation plan (ex: raising outlets). This should be done by the end of the month. I asked about volunteers and donations and was told that the value of whatever the town receives in goods & services would be deducted from the amount FEMA pays us.
Status of boro hall – when can we start repairs? See above for Community Center
Status of the Transit Village application and can anything be delegated to move this along? It is included in the Master Plan and was revived after Sandy. Steve Nelson is doing more ground work on this.
Is Hope for Highlands winding down? Why haven’t we heard about any fundraising or more programs? As per Carla at last night’s (7/16) council meeting, Hope for Highlands is accepting applications in case they get more funding. At this time Hope for Highlands is not actively fundraising.
Sea Bright celebration & promotion of the town. What is Highlands and the HBP doing to draw people in? skipped
Can we get a composting program going in town to cut down on the tipping fees for garbage collection? Princeton has a program where the residents separate their compost materials and pay a fee to have it picked up and taken to a central location. http://www.princetonnj.gov/organic/CurbsideOrganics.html Chatham has a program where people compost in their own yards and has a great planning tool. http://www.njslom.org/96thconf/presentations/ChathamTwpSaveitToSpadeitProgram-Nov17-2011.pdf The town was approached by a student from Rowan regarding a composting survey. That can be found here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZFFBFZL It’s also on the Highlands web page under “Public Notices.”