SPRINGFIELD, NJ — The Township Committee voted unanimously at its May 14 meeting to adopt a $33 million municipal budget, which includes a $69 tax increase for the average homeowner.
It was the largest budget in the township’s history, according to Committeeman Alex Keiser, who presented the spending plan at the meeting, exceeding last year’s by about $100,000. He attributed the budget increase to expanding township services and increased wages for employees.
Keiser said that about 83 percent of the budget is allotted to the township’s three largest departments: police, fire and public works.
For the DPW, the greatest change in operating costs is under contract and leases, where it jumped from $125,00 to $305,000.
“We are anticipating purchasing RVSA flow rights from another town,” Keiser said, referring to the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority. “We haven’t entered into any contract, but we wanted to make sure the money was accounted for.”
The RVSA is a 35-acre wastewater treatment plant in Rahway that currently serves 11 municipalities, about 250,000 residents and 3,500 commercial users. Its board is comprised of one representative from each of the following municipalities: Springfield, Clark, Cranford, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, Rahway, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Westfield and Woodbridge. Winfield Park and portions of Fanwood and Linden also are connected into the system, but are not members of the cooperative.
According to Keiser, 38 percent of the total municipal budget is appropriated for salary and wages.
“I believe this budget meets our obligations. It’s both fair and balanced. It allows for growth and provides for our current residents as well as residents to come, and provides that our hardworking township employees who not only put their lives on the line every day, but also the ones that make sure phones are answered every day,” Keiser said.
“It’s a strong budget for our residents and employees,” he added.
The Board of Education also recently approved its budget in a unanimous vote at its April 23 meeting; the $44.8 million budget includes a $69 tax increase for the average homeowner. The local tax levy is a 1.97 percent increase from last year’s $44.6 million budget, and stays under the state-restricted cap of 2 percent.
The school board is projecting an increase of 31 students in the district for the 2019-20 school year, a projection that will be analyzed through the end of the school year and into the summer, according to Matthew Clarke, the school board’s business administrator and secretary.
“May through August, we are really, really looking at that enrollment data,” he said at the meeting. “You’d be surprised at the last minute that we have to make an adjustment within the budget to add a staff member because the numbers have grown.”
Almost 80 percent of the school budget is allocated for salaries and wages of the 380 district employees, including more than 190 teachers. This budget also allocates $46,000 to the libraries at the middle school and elementary schools — $10,150 for the three elementary schools and $15,200 for Florence M. Gaudineer Middle School.
The money will be used to provide the four libraries with updated digital and print materials.
A letter was read on behalf of Bonnie Lafazan, a resident with two sons in the district and who has expressed her dissatisfaction with the district’s lack of certified media specialists in the past.
“It is our hope that these new materials will be replaced with current and trendy books, award-winning novels and diverse books on a wide range of social issues,” the letter read.
“As much as we are grateful for the allocation of this additional funding, it is unfortunate that this has to fall on the one media specialist in our district to provide the consolation with four schools in addition to her own role of covering an entire school of almost 600 students.”
None of the district’s four other schools, besides Jonathan Dayton High School, has a certified media specialist.
Lafazan is the director of the Berkeley College Library, a board member of Library Link New Jersey and president for the New Jersey Library Association’s College and University Section.