By Robert Holt
MICKLETON — At their meeting on June 24, the East Greenwich Township Committee introduced an ordinance on its first reading that would defer a bond payment of $500,000 due Aug. 1 over the next five years.
Despite numerous cutbacks, East Greenwich is fighting a tremendous budget deficit again this year.
“The Director of the Division of Government Services recommended the move,” said East Greenwich Chief Financial Officer Bob Law. “We will be in negative cash flow until our state aid and tax revenues come in later.”
According to Law, East Greenwich is looking at a budget deficit of $495,000 for 2014. “Our budget gap is over the two percent levy,” Law explained. “The bond deferment will save the township $325,000, and we’ll still have to make cuts.”
An application for the move next has to be submitted to the Local Finance Board. The Committee also authorized the issuing and sales of tax anticipation notes for an amount of up to $1 million. Tax anticipation notes finance operations of a municipality at low interest rates before tax revenues are received.
They then passed a resolution that would adopt emergency temporary budget appropriations for 2014. The move essentially extends East Greenwich’s temporary budget from July to September.
Law pointed out that there were only six months left in the year at the time the night’s meeting was taking place, saying, “Any cuts you make now have to make up twice the savings.”
Committeeman Stephen Bottiglieri noted that a huge amount of East Greenwich’s surplus had been used up over the past few years. The township’s surplus in 2008 was $2,037,000, and in 2010 it stood at $1,427,000.
For 2014, the surplus stands at approximately $17,000. “We were handed this situation when (Deputy Mayor) James Philbin and I joined the Committee,” Bottiglieri stated. “There’s nothing else we can do but work with Mr. Law to try to plug this budget gap.” Law acknowledged that the township had a lot of one-time revenues last year that are not around this year. “Revenues do not meet the expenses,” he commented.
Committeeman Tom Decker referred to a “swiping of the credit card,” an analogy Mayor Dale Archer has used in past budget discussions. Decker argued that transparency did not take place with the township’s previous CFO, but Law assured him that school bills and Gloucester County tax bills would be paid.
“The state is advising us what to do,” declared Archer. “There’s nothing more we can do.” “We must stay united for our residents during this financial crisis,” he added.
In other items, the Committee approved a bond ordinance that would authorize use of $320,000 for local improvements and equipment. In the public portion of the meeting, Mickleton resident Wilfredo Rojas questioned how the township could spend $320,000 while having a budget deficit of nearly $500,000.
“Some of these expenses are required,” Bottiglieri replied. “One of the police vehicles we are replacing has 150,000 miles on it.”
He also mentioned the need to replace the police department’s outdated fingerprint system. “We have zero trash cans,” Archer added. “Zero. We have no chipper. These are necessities.”
Committeeman Sam Giordano said the township had borrowed a license plate reader from the county and increased court revenue for three straight months. But East Greenwich Police Lieutenant Charles Barone insisted that a reader was not a revenue issue, but one about public safety.
“If it’s an unregistered operator or an uninsured vehicle, we’re getting them off the streets,” Barone clarified. “Our detective bureau uses it, and suspended drivers are getting off the streets.”
There have also been discussions between East Greenwich Township, the police department, and the local school board regarding the hiring of four Class II Officers to work in the schools. “The school board has offered to pay their salaries,” said Barone.
The Committee also passed an ordinance that would amend local wastewater connection charges. “We had an audit done on our connection fees, and we’re about 50 percent below where we should be,” commented Archer.
And the mayor proudly announced that East Greenwich would be reinstating its board of health. “We are partnering with Betty Swift and Dolores Dove,” explained Archer. “They are also volunteers, yet they still want to give back to their community.”