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Needs Vs. Wants in Township's Capital Projects Budget

Moorestown Township Council kicked off budget season Thursday studying a list of $29 million worth of capital projects.

Township manager Scott Carew presented a list of all the potential capital projects on the horizon during a kickoff budget workshop for town council Thursday morning.

All told, if the township undertook every one of the projects presented, it would cost nearly $29 million. Seeing as how the township’s total budget last year was only $22.9 million, it’s a safe bet some of those projects will have to wait.

As such, Mayor John Button said council’s job is now to break up that list of 24 items—including $1.3 million for vehicle and equipment purchases for and utility and approximately $2.8 million for —into needs and wants, what must be done versus what can wait.

Carew composed the list with input from various township department heads. Council said they would rely on Carew’s and the rest of the department head’s expertise to prioritize projects.

Members of council repeatedly asked “Why?,” or some variation thereof, when presented with a project.

Councilman Mike Testa said it was imperative council “make sure we have a story behind (each project) to explain to taxpayers” why the township needs to spend the money.

In some cases, the answer was simple and direct. For example, a line item for $355,000 was needed for a co-pay on a road construction project undertaken by the county on Westfield Road. Carew said the township agreed to pay for part of the project and has yet to do so.

Other line items, such as $3 million to upgrade to an automated water meter reading system, were described as “desirable, but not dire,” by director Ken Ewers.

Of course, the biggest item on the list was the construction of the municipal complex, which Carew put at $10 million, though the latest estimates forecast the cost at slightly higher than $9 million.

Asked how the , which council fully intends to break ground on this year, would play into prioritizing the other capital projects, Carew said, “Being the biggest item on the list, it puts a different weight on everything else.”

A handful of other projects were left off the list or their costs listed as “to be determined”—e.g. the Main Street parking project and a comprehensive road improvement program—because Carew didn’t think he had enough information to include them.

“What I didn’t want to do was throw a big number out there, with all the other big numbers out there, without more information,” he said.

Some of the other “big numbers”:

  • $2.6 million for public works vehicles and equipment (Some of the vehicles are “basically from the Stone Age,” Carew said. “They’re being kept together by spit and Band-Aids.”)
  • $1.2 million for water main replacement and road reconstruction on Second Street
  • $5 million for the replacement and upgrade of various water mains

Carew stressed the list is only a “starting point” and will be refined (and possibly whittled down) over time.

Council has scheduled two more budget workshops at 6 p.m., Feb. 16 and 23, both at . Those meetings will focus on the operations side of the budget.

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