Township Council Minutes
May 17 , 2005
A Special Public Meeting of the Mount Olive Township Council was called to Order at 8:14 pm by Council President Greenbaum.
President Greenbaum: At this point, I’m going to ask to recess the Council Conference Meeting and move into the Public Meeting, which we waited for Mr. Guenther to get here. So, we’re going to recess and Lisa, I would ask you to call the roll for the Public Meeting please.
ROLL CALL Present: Mr. Buell, Mrs. Labow, Mr. Mund, Mr. Guenther, Mr. Perkins,
Absent: Mr. Rattner
ALSO PRESENT: Mayor De La Roche; Bob Casey, Acting Business Administrator; Gary Higgins, Township Auditor; John Dorsey, Township Attorney; Lisa Lashway, Township Clerk
President Greenbaum: I assume that we should read the Open Public Meetings Act Announcement again, as well.
OPEN PUBLIC MEETINGS ACT ANNOUNCEMENT
According to the Open Public Meetings Act, adequate notice of this meeting has been given to the Mount Olive Chronicle. Notice has been posted at the Municipal Building, 204 Flanders-Drakestown Road, Mount Olive Township, New Jersey and notices were sent to those requesting the same.
Resolution Re: Certification of Tax Levy (School District Budget)
President Greenbaum: Okay, we have at our Special Public Meeting, a resolution of the Township of Mount Olive in the County of Morris. Mr. Guenther, at this point, I would ask that you give us an update pursuant to the memo which we all received and I appreciate the memo in terms of the work that the Ad Hoc Committee did, reviewing the School Budget, and just briefly go through what the recommendation is of the Committee, in terms of cuts to the proposed School Budget.
Mr. Guenther: I’ll just summarize real quickly, mainly for the audience that has not had the benefit of seeing the memo. Essentially, we had one organizational meeting of the committee to see how we would proceed. Sort of simultaneously, I requested the School Administration to provide a possible list of areas that they felt were the easiest to make reductions in without affecting the school curriculum. We subsequently received them. When we convened for a second meeting with the Corresponding Committee from the School Board, we discussed those items. There was a substantial list of suggested cuts made by the School, the Board of Education, Administration of the School, and we discussed those at length. There were some questions that our Auditor, Gary Higgins and his team had, which went through in some detail. In addition to that, Mr. Higgins and his team had also come up with some additional areas, I believe it was about a six page memo of items that he…we wished some explanation on, regarding the sudden increases in certain expenses and certain areas. That was provided to the School Board and that particular committee, for them to review and respond to us at the subsequent meeting. They responded and in general we…I guess we came to an understanding as to why some of those increases took place, there wasn’t 100% agreement, but I think pretty much that, you know, there were some areas where really….how should I say, sufficient explanations as to why the sudden increases took place, and some of them were due to State mandated programs. A lot of it had to do with what was mandated by the State and the ratio of teacher aids that are necessary for special student…special education students, and there’s no getting away from those particular mandates. At that second meeting, we came up with sort-of a revised list, with some back and forth, Mr. Higgins also suggested a savings of an additional….the original number was…I don’t remember the original number, but it was somewhere around $521,000, we suggested, as a result of Mr. Higgins’ analysis, that an additional $300,000 could be realized from accumulated interest…that would be accumulated from the bonds that were approved by the voters for the reconstruction or the application of the High School. That was a very conservative number, we felt. In fact, we did a little bit of trading back and forth on that, we could have been more aggressive, but we felt in general, I think everybody agreed, it was better to be more conservative on that number, so that the following year in case, you know, our scenario that we had laid out as to the timeframe in which the school construction would take place, didn’t come true, that the School Board wouldn’t find itself in a bind and, you know, come up short in those interest payments…the interest that was realized. As a result, the day after we met, there was also an opening of bids for the removal of trailers from the High School. We felt that the number that had been estimated was high in the Budget, we came to a compromise in that if the number…the lowest bid came in within 90% of that number, that any amount below that would go onto the savings, or onto the budget cuts. So, the bottom line is the….as is stated in the Resolution, the tax levy reduction wound up being $833,773. In addition….as part of that, the original
Mr. Guenther (cont’d): recommendation of, or should I say, the original list submitted by the School had included the possibility of cutting the late bus service, both from the Middle and the High School. We felt very strongly that that was not in the best interest of neither the safety of the students, nor the parents, especially working parents, who would be highly inconvenienced by that. So, we asked the Administration to come up with an additional $30,000, or $30,000 that that represented, and they subsequently did. So, the total number of $833,773 does not contemplate any cut in the late bus, it includes the $12,000 in savings in the low bid that came in for the removal of the trailers, and pretty much in total…almost total, outside of the exceptions that I’ve noted, were along the lines of the suggested cuts that had been made originally.
President Greenbaum: Thank you.
Mr. Guenther: Anybody wish to….Gary, is there anything that I missed that you wish to add?
Mr. Higgins: No, I believe you covered pretty much everything. Just a couple…I guess, final notes, is I think the process worked out very well, I think both committees were pretty pleased with the outcome. My office requested a substantial amount of information over the two week period and the Board of Ed responded promptly and, you know, did their best to provide explanations through…..and then we could transmit them back to the committee. The bottom line, the $833,000 approximately, equates to four tax points, or roughly 25% of the increase in the general fund tax levy that was defeated by the voters. So, the committee was, you know, they worked hard and they really reduced the tax increase from sixteen points to roughly twelve.
President Greenbaum: Were you satisfied, Gary, in terms of your review and that there were no additional monies that could…that really could have been taken out of the proposed School Budget without crippling either programs, educational, increasing class size, and the like? I mean, really, did the committee touch on all of the different areas?
Mr. Higgins: Well, based upon a four year trending, obviously…like Bernie said, we identified a lot of areas where, you know, it’s more than a normal three or four percentage increase, however, the explanation provided, you know, justified those larger percentage increases. Obviously, you know, we’re not intimately involved in the budget prep, where we’re working under a two-week, you know, deadline, and we’re doing our best to work with, you know, hundreds, you know, tens of millions of dollars here and see what we can find, but I think the committee was satisfied with the responses, as Bernie said and, you know, I think, you know, we did our best with the information provided and the questions we asked.
President Greenbaum: Thank you. Mr. Guenther.
Mr. Guenther: And I guess I should have prefaced my remarks by, first of all, saying I think the objective over the joint committees was that we were not going to affect the student to teacher ratios, the quality of education in the schools. I mean, we were going to look for administrative costs, revenue enhancement, but to answer your question, there were…the Administration looked at all areas of expenses, we have personnel and anticipated revenues, summer school and extra curricula activities, transportation and maintenance, curriculum/ technology and personnel reduction in the administrative staff. So, all areas of non-curriculum oriented were looked at. I think it was done very thoroughly. I have to add, sort of a note of thanks, first of all, to Gary and his team, I think they did…they worked over a whole weekend putting this together and that was…..without them we obviously couldn’t have done it. I also want to thank the spirit of cooperation we had from the School Board. I think the discussions in general were very amicable and, you know, we all tried our best to reach a very solid conclusion for the citizens of this town, both for the taxpayers who felt that, you know, this might have been too high in expenditures, and for those that wanted to maintain a quality of education for the children.
President Greenbaum: Thank you. At this point, Mr. Mund, I would ask that you move, by way of motion, the resolution with respect to the tax levy, with respect to the Board of Education Budget.
Mr. Mund: I would like to move the certification of tax levy.
Mr. Perkins: Second.
President Greenbaum: It’s been moved and seconded. At this point, I’ll open it up to the public for discussion. Is there anyone from the public who wishes to speak on this issue? Seeing none, I’ll close it to the public.
President Greenbaum: Is there any further Council comment with respect to this particular Resolution?
Ms. Labow: Just thank you, they did a great job.
President Greenbaum: Yes, before….yes, Mr. Mund.
Mr. Mund: Yes, I would like to identify the citizens that worked on this, Scott Ireland, Hank Titone, Dave Scapicchio and Howie Weiss, and thank them for all their efforts and cooperation in coming to a unanimous conclusion.
Mr. Guenther: I would just like to add a comment. You know, there might be, you know, when this comes out in the paper, whatever, there might be elements of the population that could be disappointed, or could say, well, maybe more could have been done, but as I said, the objective was to maintain the quality of education, and, you know, I can speak to this personally as being a realtor, that the one thing….there are two things that increase the value of your homes in this town, and one of the them is the quality of education, the second is the quality of your recreation facility, and those two things are, you know, I think we have to keep that in mind, there’s a delicate balance that we had to find here and, as I said, we were under the gun, as Gary said, we’re under State mandate…a very short period of time to do this and that’s why we obviously…we had to bring in a professional such as Gary and his firm to do it, we couldn’t do it on our own, but that’s just as a way of editorial comment.
President Greenbaum: Thank you. Any further comments? Seeing none, Roll Call.
ROLL CALL Passed Unanimously
President Greenbaum: At this point, I would ask for a motion to adjourn.
Mr. Mund: Motion to adjourn.
Mr. Guenther: Second.
All were in favor and the Special Public Meeting adjourned at 8:28 pm and the Workshop Meeting continued.
President Greenbaum, Council President
I, LISA M. LASHWAY, Township Clerk of the Township of Mount Olive do hereby certify that the foregoing Minutes is a true and correct copy of the Minutes approved at a legally convened meeting of the Mount Olive Township Council duly held on May 24, 2005.
Lisa M. Lashway, Township Clerk