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Rec Center Improvements Fail to Find Funding

Moorestown Council couldn't get enough votes to bond for major improvements at the Church Street Recreation Center, but will take up the vote again soon.

An attempt by council to fund improvements to the failed Monday, but will be brought back to the table in short order.

Township council considered an ordinance Monday to bond $655,000 to pay for improvements at the rec center, ranging from replacement of the gym floor to installation of a new ceiling and windows.

Township manager Scott Carew advised bonding for the project before putting it out to bid because architect Rick Ragan had broken it up into chunks—phase one being $49,977.75 for general masonry renovations—and Carew warned against potentially stalling the project if council needed to bond for each phase.

But Councilman Mike Testa questioned the wisdom of bonding before they knew the exact price, suggesting it was “kind of putting the cart before the horse … This is not consistent with how council has done things in the past.”

Testa was primarily concerned with how the township planned to pay for the project and what kind of an impact—if any—it would have on taxpayers. He was discouraged when financial officer Tom Merchel did not have those numbers readily available.

Carew said, while the project obviously costs “real dollars,” the debt service for it wouldn’t kick in until 2014—when the township’s annual debt payment would drop by $600,000.

“How this (recreation center improvements) factors into a possible tax increase depends on what decisions you guys make over the next few months (regarding other projects),” Carew said, referring to larger projects such as the field improvements and municipal complex.

"On its own, this would not cost the taxpayers," he said.

The manager said he fully supported funding the project, as did other members of council, including Councilman Chris Chiacchio, who said, “This is work that has to be done … It’s part of running the town.”

However, the vote split 3-1, with Testa providing the lone “no.” Bond ordinances require four votes to pass, and with Councilwoman Stacey Jordan absent, the motion died.

Testa expressed his support for the rec center project, but said he’s “not inclined to add burden to the taxpayer … For me, it’s all about, if there’s an incremental tax burden, now’s not the right time for it.”

Asked by a resident whether there’s any circumstance in which he’d support the project, Testa said, “Sure. When I know where the money comes from.”

Testa explained the difference between his support of the field improvements and his lack of support for the rec center improvements comes down to how they’re funded.

When council was still discussing bonding for the project last year, Testa said it was his intention that council pay for the debt service from the bond out of the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, which is money that’s already been collected and would therefore not impact taxpayers, he explained.

Mayor John Button, who voted in favor of bonding for the rec center improvements, recommended council reintroduce the bond ordinance at its next meeting.

“Stacey is liaison to the ,” he said. “It’s only fair to vote on it with her here.”

James August 08, 2012 at 11:12 AM
So Testa moves full steam ahead with every other project that benefits the kids he cares about (and his own pocket...) but can't move on the rec center that keeps kids off the street? Hypocritical if you ask me. Good for Button, Gallo, and Chiacco for voting yes for ALL of our towns kids.
Luci Cobb-Wirth August 08, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Leave it to Mike Testa to turn something so simple into something controversial. I will be glad when that guy is gone. For once, I side with Button and Gallo on this one. Shame on you Testa!
Ed Nice August 08, 2012 at 01:42 PM
How is asking where the money is coming from controversial and caring about burdening taxpayer same as J/C have said about KIDS for 2 years? They say they support the fields and don't vote yes and MT says he supports the rec and didn't vote yes without the money in the bank. April 17, 2012 Councilwoman Stacey Jordan said it was foolish to consider any of these projects at the moment when the township didn’t know how it would pay for them. Even though the township’s debt service is decreasing in 2014 and 2019, Jordan said it wasn’t a smart idea to put more of a tax burden on Moorestown residents. “I’m confused by saying lets just bond this and let future councils worry about paying for it,” she said. “It’s irresponsible and I don’t agree with it.” Shame on Jordan too? You people crack me up!
K.O. August 08, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Your idol John Button voted yes. Is he wrong? Please, for the first time, say it: "JOHN BUTTON IS WRONG"
Townie August 09, 2012 at 09:39 AM
This is the type of short term vision that is unacceptable. Instead of going after the elected officials, let's spend a few seconds considering our employees. The township manager and CFO don't have the numbers? Want a bond approved before knowing what it'll cost? And....oh by the way....after submitting their budget under threat of personal penalties to the counsel members, didn't budget for this. How about we use some of the liquor money we just received? Everybodywats to use the debt service reduction for more debt service. How about we pay cash and move on. My guess is the average taxpayer would have to fund about $75 to pay for the Rec center improvements. One time. No debt. $75 on a $10,000 tax bill isn't a tax increase....it's rounding. Everyone is so afraid to "raise" taxes....everything is tainted. If I'm paying a CFO, it might be nice if not only he was prepared for meetings, but had some ideas about managing funds that weren't political. Try not answering questions to the board of directors in a public company....i know the relative numbers, and don't have the working hours, pension, and apparent ease our township CFO has found for himself.

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