Byram faces 2021 budget challenges, repeals chicken ordinance

Byram. The township council is grappling with a reduction in anticipated revenue and the financial impact of Covid-19. The council also decided to repeal the township’s backyard chicken ordinance because of the cost of a public referendum.

| 08 Dec 2020 | 06:11

The Byram Township Council on Dec. 1 reviewed the 2021 municipal budget, repealed the new chicken ordinance, and made plans for C.O. Johnson Park and the municipal building project.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 (

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.

In other business:
Illegal dumping: Township manager Joseph Sabatini warned that significant illegal dumping was taking place in the township’s metal dumpster. The township is paying for daily “manpower hours” to pull e-waste, shingles, and furniture out the dumpster. The township has a camera trained on the dumpster. Sabatini said he notified the police department. Illegal dumping will not be tolerated, he said.
Gas survey: Councilman Harvey Roseff reported that, according to Elizabethtown Gas representative Gary Marmo, surveys should arrive in mailboxes in the Byram section of Lake Mohawk at the beginning of the year, and that some may have already arrived. Roseff suggested coordinating with Elizabethtown Gas to put information on the township’s website.
Fire volunteers’ clothing allowance: All council members agreed with fire chief Todd Rudloff’s request to change from a percentage system to a point system in tracking the clothing allowance for volunteers. Rudloff said the percentage system is manually intensive and prone to error. Currently, members use an emergency tracking software that tabulates points when members log in, instead of transfering the information to an Excel Spreadsheet. Sabatini will draft a resolution for the next meeting.
League of Municipalities Conference: Councilman Raymond Bonker and Councilwoman Cris Franco said seminars offered at the League of Municipalities Conference will cover technology, plastic bag legislation, ethics, and modernizing the election process.