HARDING TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE
Meeting Highlights: February 22, 2017
All members were present.
Township Operating Budget. The 2017 Township operating budget was presented by CFO Himanshu Shah. The very informative slide presentation is on the Township website (www.hardingnj.org).
The CFO reported that in 2016 the Township Committee was responsible for about 25% of the total local taxation of Harding residents. Harding open space tax accounted for an additional about 3% of the taxes. Morris County accounted for 25% and Morris County open space amounted to another 1%. The local Harding school district accounted for 46% of total local taxation.
For 2017, the Harding budget has expenses of $8.742M, of which $5.578M (64%) will be raised by taxes. Comparable amounts for 2016 were $8.737M and $5.482M (63%). Harding Township receives no state aid.
Department cost items equal $5.606M of the total expense budget. 49% and 20% of the Department costs are for the Police Department and for the Department of Public Works, respectively.
The Township Committee has worked very hard to hold the costs down for health expenses, while still providing good services for employees. For 2017, health expenses will actually decrease by about 1%. The budget also includes a 2% cost of living increase for employees.
Harding will “save” $381K in bond principal and interest this year from the retirement in 2016 of a bond. Harding has outstanding debt of $5.9M (debt service will be $619K in 2017) and retains its enviable AAA bond rating. Current debt will be paid by 2028. However, the Township Committee warned that possible debt for future affordable housing could be looming on the horizon.
The net valuation of Harding (decreases in valuation from successful tax appeals and increases from new construction) is $2,006,548,979, a decrease of 0.03% from 2016 (2,007,139,768).
Harding tax rate for 2017 will be 0.278/$100 valuation, an increase of 1.8% from 2016.
The Township Committee has not decided on the Open Space tax for 2017. It is currently 4 cents/$100 valuation (same as in 2015 and 2016; increased from 3.5 cents in 2014).
Township Capital Budget: After considerable public discussion, the Township Committee proposed a capital budget of $700K for 2017, an increase of $200K from 2016. The increase in capital budget is largely funded by a portion of the savings in bond principal and interest. The capital budget maintains Harding’s ability to pay as you go on major expenses with lifetimes of five years and more. Administrator Gail McKane maintains a ten-year rolling capital plan for Harding, ensuring that pay as you go is held to.
The operating and capital budgets will be adopted at a public hearing on March 20.
Other business: Class II Special Law Enforcement Officer Alexandru Nastase was sworn in for service in Harding. He is a 2016 graduate of the Cape May Police Academy.
The Township Committee voted unanimously to award a contract to Verizon Communications for a cell tower at the DPW site. Details of the contract are under negotiation. This site is a replacement for the site that currently exists at the New Vernon firehouse. The Committee noted that a site in the center of Harding is especially needed for 911 services in that area.
The Committee made an appointment to the Planning Board and several appointments to the Hunting Policy Committee.
Administrator McKane will be retiring at the end of March, and eventually moving to South Dakota. Her replacement is currently being sought, with a part-time interim Administrator to be hired until a replacement is found. A reception for Ms. McKane will be held on March 30. The Township Committee expressed its sincere regrets in her departing Harding.