Public safety personnel and capital needs are being addressed as part of the Belleville municipal budget introduced earlier this month – but it comes with a bit of a price tag.
The $58.4 million municipal budget, of which $45.8 million is to be raised by local taxation, is only 1.84% higher than the township’s 2013 spending plan but will still – unless revised when the public hearing is held for its adoption – account for a projected increase of about $62 on the “average” house assessed at $238,200, according to Township Manager Kevin Esposito.
How property owners’ tax bills will be impacted by local school costs and the local share of the Essex County budget remains to be seen but if projections of a $2.5 million Board of Education deficit are accurate, that alone could drive up taxes by more than $200 on the average homeowner, Esposito said.
On the municipal side of the ledger, Esposito said a $300,000 spike in the cost of snow removal this past winter, when a cumulative total of 70 inches fell in the area, along with an uptick in employee health insurance premiums, helped push spending up.
The 2015 budget is designed to make room for 16 new police officers, of whom four are now undergoing training in the Police Academy and the township expects to send the other 12 to the Academy by September, according to Esposito.
Seven additional firefighters are also being added to the Fire Department roster, thanks to a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant that pays for salaries and benefits for two years.
With the new cops, the township will be “a few officers shy” of the ordinance strength called for by the Police Department’s Table of Organization and the Fire Department will also fall short of its T.O., but at least it’s taking steps to try and build up its public safety capability under fiscal restraints, Esposito said.
The township recently secured a 2014 E1 HP 100-foot aerial ladder fire truck with a 2,000-gallon-per minute pump, manufactured in Ocala, Fla., and acquired for $880,000 through a Houston/Galveston purchasing cooperative from a New Jersey vendor, Absolute Fire Protection, of South Plainfield. It will replace a 1992 rig.
The Fire Department also got a new ambulance, a 2014 Freightliner with a 170-inch box, built by PL Custom, of Manasquan, and acquired from N.J. Emergency Vehicles, a division of PL Custom, at a cost of $218,000 through the same purchasing cooperative. The department’s 2007 ambulance, with 114,000 miles logged, will become a backup vehicle for now.
Both new vehicles come equipped with a diesel exhaust fluid system.
“We are in the process of looking at our capital needs for 2015 and, specifically, replacing our aging pickup trucks which are used all seasons and some of which date from 1992,” Esposito said.
Additionally, he said, “At our July 1 Township Council meeting, we will be introducing a bond ordinance for our annual road improvement program, into which we hope to incorporate funds for the completion of the new Friendly House recreation center. At that time, we’ll make a decision on what equipment we want to purchase.”
– Ron Leir