Vernon council passes 2014 budget

Kadish, Murphy object to new spending plan

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2014 Budget

Total: $24,247,616
Average Tax Rate: $22.95 for property valued at $219,359
Average Tax to be paid: $1,250 for property valued at $219,359

The Vernon Township Council approved the 2014 budget by a 4-1 vote on Monday night.

The $24,248,616 spending plan calls for a total tax levy of $15,135,306, a 2.3 percent decrease from 2013. For the average Vernon property — valued at $219,359 — the property owner would pay $1,250 in property taxes.

Council president Brian Lynch said this is the third straight year, taxes have been reduced.

Only Councilman Dan Kadish voted against the budget.

Kadish said he did not approve of the $125,000 for the band shell, located at Maple Grange Park.

"If we're going to be thought of as caviar and champagne, we have to add some culture and this is a step forward for culture. If you like the arts, if you appreciate the arts, this is a step in the right direction," councilman Dick Wetzel said.

Kadish also said the Historic Preservation Committee should be responsible for fall the small abandoned cemeteries, which have been destroyed by either "young people" or from years of neglect. He also said he did not approve of the $60,000 loosely dedicated toward litigation and he said the Bonus Awards Program should be a line item in the budget.

When asked by Councilwoman Jean Murphy whether the Bonus Awards Program was in the budget, Mayor Victor Marotta said the money was there under "salaries and wages," and they come in all shapes and forms. The previous bonuses are still the subject of a lawsuit and he expects Judge Thomas Weisenbeck will rule in the near future on the program's leagality.

"There isn't anybody in Vernon who doesn't know I believe in rewarding people for a job well done," Marotta said. "We have a program that does that."

The council also unanimously passed an ordinance, establishing a 3.5 percent cap bank for the next two years, amounting to $558,863, to be set aside in case of emergencies.

Marotta said, according to state statute, the cap bank must be passed before passing the municipal budget.

Before establishing the cap and adopting the budget Francis Jones of Nissivoccia LLC gave a brief presentation on the township's 2013 audit.

Jones said the township's fiancial position has improved from 2012 to the end of 2013. The fund balance has increased from $2.8M to $3.3M and the debt of the township decreased as it had for the prior year.

"The township is a little less tahn 1/3 of the debt the township can issue," Jones said. "There's still another 2/3 of debt the township can issue so you're nowhere near your debt limit."

The only recommendation in the report and Jones said it involves segregation of duties, and it comes up in every municipal audit because municipalities will never hire enough people to completely segregate duties.

"It's an ongoing issue and it's going on across the state," Jones said.

Jones said debt service and trust funds are not being used to fund operations, which state law would not allow the township to do.

Councilman Patrick Rizzuto said in 2011, the council received more than 20 recommendations.

Jones said record keeping also has improved all year.


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