The Byram Township Council on Dec. 1 reviewed the 2021 municipal budget, repealed the new chicken ordinance, and made plans for C.O. Johnson Park and the municipal building project.
Revenue falls during Covid-19
Township manager Joseph Sabatini said Byram faces some challenges in putting together its budget for 2021, including a reduction in anticipated revenues and the overall financial impact of Covid-19. The township faces a $120,000 revenue reduction in court fees and interest, he said.
Furthermore, he said, the state pulled back a $22,745 increase of the Garden State Preservation Trust Fund that Byram was expected to receive. Byram had asked for $250,000 in state road grants but received $166,000, he said.
On average, Sabatini said, Sussex County received 60 to 70 percent of the amounts it had requested from the state, with an average allotment of $166,000 for each of Sussex County’s 23 municipalities. The township will have to plan for the shortfall in its capital budget, he said.
Sabatini said comparable towns in Morris County, and possibly statewide, received significantly more aid through the roads program. He recommended that the council have a discussion with representatives from the 24th Legislative District about the New Jersey Department of Transportation grant and unfair awards. The district is represented for the 2020-21 by Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) in the state senate and by Parker Space (R-Wantage Township) and Harold J. Wirths (R-Hardyston Township) in the general assembly.
Sabatini anticipates that the township’s fund balance will return to the 2019 level.
He said the budget is still in its preliminary stage, and that he expects the final budget to be adopted in March. The council has scheduled a budget meeting for Jan. 19.
Master plan for the park
The council unanimously agreed to grant a $8,000 contract for professional services with French and Parrello Associates for the master development plan of C.O. Johnson Park.
Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said the council interviewed four civil engineers, park planners, and landscape architects who could help improve the park. Councilman Harvey Roseff had originally suggested getting some fresh ideas for C.O. Johnson, which is among residents’ highest priorities.
No more chicken ordinance
The council repealed the new ordinance that allowed small flocks of backyard chickens in a 3-2 vote. Councilman Raymond Bonker and Councilwoman Cris Franco voted against the repeal.
The council repealed the ordinance to avoid a $25,000 special election.
Municipal building project
The council discussed design documents for the Municipal Administration Building and police department. Mayor Rubenstein said the estimate needs to be corrected.
The council then unanimously agreed to have the Nader Group present the design documents to the council and building sub-committee at a special meeting to be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Sabatini will upload all available documents to the township website (byramtwp.org).
The council also awarded MJA Construction services an amount not to exceed $3,550, for an estimate of the proposed new police department and renovations to the municipal building. Councilman Roseff voting against the measure.
Roseff said the council should first hear the presentation from the Nader Group before going to a third party for an estimate.