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Council Budget Discussion Gets Testy

If Moorestown Township Council doesn't introduce a budget by the end of next week, council members will face fines from the state.

After receiving a letter of reprimand from the state threatening fines if a budget isn’t introduced by next week, township council still couldn’t come to a consensus Monday night.

Township manager Scott Carew said the state has threatened to fine each individual council member $25 a day if the budget isn’t introduced by next Friday, June 22.

A plan presented by financial officer Tom Merchel would funnel $365,000 of revenue from the sale of liquor licenses into the general fund and impose a slight tax increase—$53 more for a home assessed at the township average ($529,800)—to balance the budget.

But when it came time to approve the budget for introduction Monday, council split 3-2, with Mayor John Button, Deputy Mayor Greg Gallo and Councilman Mike Testa voting “no.”

Button said he had a “fundamental problem raising taxes” considering the township’s bright financial future, with the drop in debt service in 2014 and the addition of commercial ratables (, expansion of the mall).

Gallo and Testa pushed for more cuts, with Testa calling the use of liquor license revenue “a joke,” since the township hasn’t received the money yet.

“That’s a gimmick … It’s an unsustainable revenue source,” Testa said. “We can do better.”

Carew and Merchel pushed back on Testa’s objections to using the liquor license revenue. Merchel has advocated spreading the potential revenue——over several years to help balance the budget and maintain services (, ) for the majority of township residents.

“Those are things that every single resident in town uses,” said Carew. “It is going to help everybody for a decade, and that’s not something to scoff at.”

But the three councilmen were obstinate in their insistence of a zero tax increase plan. Button said he wanted the “zero options.”

When asked by Carew and Merchel for specific direction, Gallo and Testa mentioned outsourcing and shared services, but were still somewhat vague on how they expected the administrators to bridge the gap if not with revenues.

“Some of it we have to be careful with because it has to do with personnel,” Gallo explained.

Councilman Chris Chiacchio—who along with Councilwoman Stacey Jordan voted “yes” on introduction—said he was just as unhappy with a tax increase as the other councilmen, but didn’t hear any better ideas being presented.

“I don’t hear one viable option or solution,” Chiacchio said. “Nothing’s going to change.”

Jordan made no attempt to hide her frustration with her fellow council members’ refusal to introduce the budget and seeming lack of faith in the township professionals.

“I feel like this is Groundhog Day. We keep telling (Merchel and Carew) the same thing,” she said. “Tom (Merchel) tells us this is a responsible budget … I’m relying on our professionals who I trust.”

The budget discussion became somewhat testy as it dragged on, with councilmen Testa and Chiacchio engaging in a snappy exchange when Testa boiled Chiacchio’s and Jordan’s stance down to a sound bite: “I don’t want to raise taxes. You want to raise taxes.”

“I’m sorry you have to make this a political stump speech,” Chiacchio fired back.

“,” Testa replied.

Gallo admitted though it may seem repetitive— and —to send the administrators back to the drawing board once again, it’s how they’ve succeeded in getting lean budgets in past years. He said former township manager Chris Schultz discovered a $40,000 cut during 11th hour budget discussions last year.

“I’m not satisfied we’ve gone as far as we can … To keep pressing is appropriate,” said Gallo. “We don’t want to leave anything behind.”

The budget adoption deadline for municipalities was April 20. Moorestown adopted its 2011 budget on June 27 last year, according to the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The DCA did not, however, penalize the township for its late adoption last year. 

Council tentatively scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. next Wednesday, at the , to take up introduction of the budget once again.

Tax Playa June 13, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Voice- Enlighten Me. This is right off of APP.com with the name removed. What job is this that makes $89K per year. Is the information incorrect? Just follow the link above. You'll find another employee making $79K in District 2. Is this false information? County Burlington Location MOORESTOWN TWP FIRE DISTRICT 1 Pension fund Public Employees Retirement System Pension group Veteran status Pension enrollment year 1998 Base salary, 2011* $89,644 Number of jobs* 1 Total salary, 2011* $89,644 County Burlington Location MOORESTOWN TWP FIRE DISTRICT 1 Pension fund Public Employees Retirement System Pension group Veteran status Pension enrollment year 1998 Base salary, 2011* $89,644 Number of jobs* 1 Total salary, 2011* $89,644
Tax Playa June 13, 2012 at 12:53 AM
I'd love to know what our pension costs are for the budget this year. Can anyone enlighten me? So our taxes are going up? What am I going to get for it? NOTHING! This is the worst GLOBAL recession in 20 years and the public sector still wants to spend more money!
G. Williams June 13, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Tom, You ask a fair question of the rep candidates who say they will cut expenses. I would pose it to them. Cutting expenses however, doesn't mean there still wouldn't be tax increases,maybe just less of one. Your comment, by the way,doesn't apply to them for this year. To me their statement means if elected, they will look at ways to further cut costs, or share expenses. Read my post, I did not say there was nothing else to cut. I said any councilmember is free to identify further cuts, since their professionals apparently are now looking for direction from Council. I expect that would be quite painful at this point. It is certainly something that should have been looked at before now. It is confusing to me that three members of the Council, which is on borrowed time, would vote against the budget, ask for more cuts, but without identifying which cuts to make. I hear the personal fines are just around the corner. Only about 15% of most municipal budgets are elective in terms of spending. The bulk of budget revenues go to mandatory fixed costs, and by nature these costs go up and not down, as they are out of councils control. As they say, (not referring to you) "It's the economy stupid". Ed, I do not have the time or energy to answer your loaded questions, address your ever changing ideals, or try to figure out which numbers you put out there are for real. Suffice it to say, nothing I have to say to you would influence you one bit. You are a man on a mission.
Concerned for Moorestown June 13, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Tax I don't think the issue is that the tax payers pay benefits to our town employees, I think it is that they are not in line with the free market. The school board stuck to thier guns and finally gained ground on the teachers. Because of the Governor the teachers now with a new contract will have to pay 2% of their health care while still only working for 180 days out of a year and getting 3 months of that off at one time. 2% is still a joke but at least it is better than zero. I think the solution is to some how get the town employees to start to pay more of their share of their benefits and get more in line with the open market. That would save us thousands of dollars a year!
Voice of Reason June 13, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Playa, My guess is that those salaries are either for the Marshalls of the two districts or the administrators of the two districts, both of which are important positions. Lets start with administrators these are the people who handle the day to day operations while at the same time trying to navigate the vast amount of red tape imposed upon them by the state. Marshals are the people who investigate fires and inspect commercial properties for fire safety issues. These are necessary and full time jobs. I do agree that 2 districts and therefore 2 marshals/administrators is redundant. You mentioned commisioners making 100k and I was trying to argue the validity of your statement. Commissioners are like town council except at a much lower level. They are elected to (I think) 3 year terms, they make a small salary of $2,300.00 per year as stated above. Looks like our debate was a misunderstanding. My apologies.
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM
My changing ideals........ That's funny. My posts are all the same. Do what you can that doesn't cost you money,ie the KIDS project. Money is sitting in the bank waiting to be used! And don't raise tax on projects that we don't need right now. You post a couple weeks back that this was the time to do town hall because it would take 2 years to complete and there would be no payments do till it was completed. I tucked that one away till now. That is not true and you know it. 6 months after money is disbursed the first payment will be do on the bond. That is true of any bonded project. So who is on a mission George. You and the MRMC are to get your candidates elected. This time you picked out I guess better pawns that you guys will be able to control and do your bidding if elected. That didn't turn out so well for you guys when BGT wouldn't make decisions based on politics and made them for what was best for Moorestown! Good luck come Nov. your party doesn't have a chance now that the truth is getting out!
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Hummmm George I have to say maybe it wasn't you that posted that. I just looked back at your posts under G. Williams and i don't see it. I know i read it and know it was from one of your followers but I am pulling my finger back from pointing at you ..... That is unless I find it some where else LOL. See George I can play fair!!!
G. Williams June 13, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Ed, Reading your post, I rest my case.
Voice of Reason June 13, 2012 at 02:01 AM
funny thing happened, I got an email that indicated that someone wanted to discuss paid chiefs in district 1 and 2. Clicked on the link and the post is not here. Can anyone tell me what is going on?
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 02:03 AM
This was posted by Diehardrep, I guess i got confused again who is who George!!! The money will be in place to start the project, and the bond payments will begin after completion (possibly two years from now), according to the professionals. Rest your case what case???? You guys have no case! Just high and mighty ideas of how a town should be run. Well not everyone can afford your way George so there needs to be some compromise!
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Construction on Town Hall Should Begin by Fall, Designer Says Posted May 24, 2012 Just in case you need to find it George!
Watcher June 13, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Thanks mr Williams, let's get these three republicans elected. Those independents mathimatically almost don't have a chance to win. Why would the mayor be doing this? To get back at a few people to bring his party down? Those republicans may support button now but their vote for him is a vote for the democrats.
Concerned for Moorestown June 13, 2012 at 02:15 AM
That was my post. I posted before I checked on the info. There are defiantly paid firemen in the town. Though most are volunteers. Just saying. Don't know if it is one or two. Can't find that right now. I know who I can ask to confirm. But I know for a fact that there are. I remember Dave Constantine left the police force to become a paid fire chief for Moorestown.
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Watcher I don't think you realize the backing the Mayor and the other two candidates have. This is going to be much closer than you would ever want it. You say "To get back at a few people to bring his party down?" Here is the sad thing for everyone to hear in this town. This is not a Rep. issue or Dem. issue, this is a Moorestown issue. If there was anything that George has said that I agree with is "Only about 15% of most municipal budgets are elective in terms of spending. The bulk of budget revenues go to mandatory fixed costs, and by nature these costs go up and not down, as they are out of councils control." It is for this reason that this is not a fight about rep. or dems. In running a small town as George just pointed out it doesn't matter because costs are fixed. With Georges statement though it makes me wonder why with the MRMC knowing this, why did they throw button under a bus? Cause George doesn't like the way the Mayor runs his meeting... Really!!!!
Voice of Reason June 13, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Concerned, Mr. Constantine has not been fire chief in Moorestown for about 3 years. The fire chief in Moorestown is a Mr. Green who is a volunteer. Not quite sure if Lenola has a paid chief or not.
Tom June 13, 2012 at 02:51 AM
You tried to duck the question. You wrote that it does not apply to the candidates this year but I don't see why not. If the candidates are running on cutting spending then they must know what they would cut or how could they make the statement? Without specifics, its just an election year ruse to get votes. Either there are cuts or not. Tell the truth.
G. Williams June 13, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Actually Ed, I was resting my case on how you manage your communication skill with others. Maybe that's why 50% of the blogs here are yours. You need to ease up if you want people to listen. But, you just can't resist personal attacks. Good approach. Signing off.
Talk of the town June 13, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Ed to clarify your statement , there were a few that the mrmc turned down from being candidates, for which I understand correctly. They were Button, Miller, and Cooper. I wonder why there wasnt a republican primary? What some have said, I don't see how button can win and why he went this almost certain losing route?
Donnie June 13, 2012 at 03:49 AM
i see, p miller would be good for council, why didnt the mrmc pick him? with button it appears obvious, that it was personal? havent heard much of cooper?? we as voters have a lot of homework to read about these candidates. i heard they have a new chair? maybe a better approach for the future?
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 12:42 PM
You cant answer any questions and you insult my communication skills. Ok I will keep asking questions and posting the truth while you and the mrmc spin it. You are just like Jordan all excuses. We will see who informs the public.
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Really talk. I heard Pete Miller was told he couldn't run and then he was on the selection committee that fired button and that cooper wasnt allowed on the committee. Is that a lie? George was on it too. I know Pete likes to post under fake names so he can respond.
Peter Beter June 13, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Really Donnie???? I have an idea, maybe your dynamic wit, charisma and knowledge of local politics would make you a good moderator for our candidate debates!
Tax Playa June 13, 2012 at 03:30 PM
VOR- No problem, I may be mistaken about the titles but there are 2 people making a lot of cash and they seem redundant. How about just one person?
Tax Playa June 13, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Agreed. I'd like to pay market rate for all township services. Either privatize everything or negotiate and have people pay more for benefits. I'll bet public sector benefits and pension expenses are way higher than private sector. Can someone look at the numbers. Salary is X and benefits are Y (which is a % of X) . What is that number? I'll bet that Y is 50% more than in the private sector. Taxes go up to support this. So...... privatize everything except the police. That is doable. Then we will know that we are paying market rate for all services in town.
Ed Nice June 13, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Hey SteveS you are campaign manager for GNP. What will they do to cut expenses and lower taxes?? If they are gonna put it out there they should back it up. GW wants to raid the utility. Does GNP support that too?
Concerned for Moorestown June 13, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Voice thank you for letting me know that. I wasn't aware Mr. Constantine was no longer a paid fireman for Moorestown. I think though what I was trying to point out was that there are some paid firemen in town and not for small money. I'm not saying I agree or disagree with Tax Playa just pointing it out that there are salaries for jobs there that could be looked at. Those jobs maybe redundant and then again they maybe be just getting the job done with the paid staff they have. I think Playa was saying it should be looked into.
Voice of Reason June 13, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Playa, Agreed. We could/should have only one district. But it seems to me that overall we get a pretty good deal with our fire services being volunteer compared to a Mt. Laurel who pays through the teeth.
Voice of Reason June 13, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Concerned, we agree that all budgets should be available for review by the public. (we are the ones who pay the bill). All of this information is available online in the case of the two fire districts. Haven't looked into the municipal budget yet, but unless the fire districts are committing a criminal act by not reporting paid firemen/women, there are currently zero paid firefighters in District 1 or District 2. Though I will point out that it looks like the high ranking people in both districts recieve stipends (It looks like the highest of these is the chief in district 2 who recieves a 12k stipend annually). I think that the general point I am trying to make is that while we don't need 2 fire districts in a town this size, we might be picking on a department that has generally done a pretty good job.
Third Base Coach June 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Coach Ed, to help clear the air, on that "selection show" issue, for what I know, you are right pm "was told he couldn't run". Furthermore two people Gw and pm from the mrc couldn't vote on the candidates. If I understand your "loud" comment correctly, both gw and pm did not "fire mayor button or throw him under any bus", they didn't have a vote on the matter because they weren't part of the mrmc. You should have conformed with them before assuming.
G. Williams June 14, 2012 at 02:26 PM
TB, Thanks for that clarification. I am not aware if PM was told he could not run. He told me personally that he wouldn't run due to personal reasons which I will not divulge. I am always amazed at how people not in the know, manage to know so much.

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