HAZLET – The Hazlet Township Committee passed a $21,075,314 municipal operating budget Tuesday which it said calls for no tax increase.
In fact, officials are proud to point out that it is actually $144 less than last year, somewhat a rarity in municipal government.
“This particular budget sustains all the municipal services as we had in ’18, same as in ’19. In fact, we’ll have increased services in some areas,” said Township Administrator Dennis Pino during a slide presentation for the public at the budget hearing.
The $21,075,170 budget includes $14,264,537 to be raised by taxation, and $3,960,633 in other revenues.
In several budget workshop discussions, the all-Republican governing body comprised of Mayor Scott Aagre, Deputy Mayor Mike Glackin and members Skip McKay, Tara Clark and Michael Sachs have expressed a goal to institute best practices and financial discipline into Hazlet municipal operations.
“It was important to us to change some of the ways we had performed in the past,” Pino told the audience. ”We wanted to demonstrate fiscal responsibility in ways we had never done so before. It’s kind of tough to do in municipal government, but we did a pretty good job this year.”
Another goal has surfaced to improve transparency and communication with the public, which inspired last night’s informative budget presentation by the township’s head of administration.
Pino, who designed Hazlet’s innovative and money-saving online construction permit system years ago, announced there will be more convenience coming as the township moves towards giving the public new ways to conduct business with Hazlet Township through the ease of mobile phones. “From the website – to departments that are going to be coming online, in ways they never were there before,” said Pino.
The sorry state of municipal roads is being addressed with what Pino described as “the first-ever long-term road project in Hazlet Township.”
In a study commissioned 18 months ago, the township learned it needed to spend $30 million to repair 100 roads. Since then, the governing body has worked towards a comprehensive plan to tackle the needs by neighborhood, instead of by street, for greater cost efficiency and has won $1 million in grants to help fund the work. Bids have come in, and residents will see work begin in the first neighborhoods on the list in about a month.
“It will take about 5 to 10 years. By the time we are done it will probably be another 100 roads that need to be done the same way. It’s a vicious cycle, but for the first time ever they’ve done a great job in supporting the department of public works, the township engineers, and allowing this town to evolve the way it has.”
The “best part” about the budget, said Pino, is the reinstatement of the school resource officer program, which provides education and security for Hazlet’s school communities.
The 2019 budget initiates about $2 million in capital funding for the road program, in addition to the $5.6 million currently underway.
The police headquarters on Middle Road will also be addressed in the capital funding plans. The building, which houses a municipal court and police shooting range, requires necessary repairs for security, ADA upgrades, and restrooms for the growing number of female officers, as well as other changes. Said Pino, “Police headquarters needs a lot of repairs. You’re looking at about $2.1 million in the initial round, there probably will be a second one coming up in the new future and be phased in somewhere along the way. But that get them into compliance with new rules and regulations, along with everything else.” It also allows for $425,000 in new police vehicles, CPR pumps and in-car camera systems.
It also initiates capital funding for the acquisition of $300,000 for DPW trucks and equipment, which Pino described as a typical annual expense.
A new $75,000 brine application system to pre-treat roads for better snow removal is included. “It will probably save us $5,000 for every single event we get to use it,” said Pino, which will save the township a “significant” amount on the snow budget.
Also, the township’s aging fuel depot will be decommissioned, and the township will move to implement shared service with Monmouth County at a cost of about $100,000.
One of the slides showed how Hazlet’s municipal spending can be viewed like pieces of a pie, with the majority of the spending on public safety ($5.7 million), health and property insurance ($3.8 million), public works ($2.8 million), Social Security and pension payments, grouped under statutory expenses ($2.2 million), debt service ($1.5 million) and uncollected tax reserve ($1.1 million). All other spending accounts for the $3.6 million remainder.
Municipal taxes account for 22 percent of the typical township property owner tax bill. The other parts are school taxes (63 percent) county taxes (12 percent), fire district (3 percent) and open space (.4 percent)
Copies of the budget and other related documents are available at http://www.hazlettwp.org/financialdocuments