By Bill Bates
The Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting in Mount Ephraim on May 7 had very few seats empty as the hot topic for the evening was the Proposed School Tax Increase as well as the Municipal Tax Increase.
Many residents asked many questions regarding the tax increases and why they are one of the highest in the area. Resident Mark MacGarvey from James Street wanted to know “When is enough?” “We the taxpayers are at a max between the school and the municipal tax.” Several other residents expressed similar feelings to the BOC.
Dan Preziosi from Kings Highway wanted to know if everything was being done to help keep costs at a minimal? Mayor Wolk reassured the residents in attendance that they have been doing their best with what they have been dealt.
Resident Erin Smalls, a school teacher in another district, who has a child in our school district, applauded the staff of our schools as she sees many good things coming from her child since he has been enrolled in the Kindergarten program in the district. “We need to think of our kids first. Our teachers in this district are outstanding and they play an important role in our children’s future” Smalls further added. Several other residents echoed Small’s comments.
Mayor Wolk stated that unfortunately an increase is necessary as many corners have been cut including sharing a part-time clerk with Barrington where the borough of Mount Ephraim does not have to pay her benefits. This action alone saved the borough roughly $24,000 a year according to Wolk.
Resident Theresa Ingram asked where this Richard Schwab came into play at and what exactly is he being paid for? Mayor Wolk explained that part-time consultant Richard Schwab was performing other duties that normally would have been performed by the Borough Clerk. Mr. Schwab was previously the acting Borough Clerk for a short period of time.
Mr. Schwab currently has two contracts with the borough; one where he is being paid a flat rate of $13,500 for the next 5 months for professional services and the second contract is unknown. The dollar amount combined for both contract totals $28,500 according to Wolk.
Other cost cutting measures that have been implemented recently are the Shared Services with Bellmawr DPW for equipment bartering explained Commissioner Greenwald. Commissioner Gilmore explained that the Shared Services with Oaklyn is still in operation where both municipalities share the same municipal court staff and expenses.
The 2009 Municipal Budget was adopted with Mayor Wolk and Commissioners Greenwald and Gilmore voting “yes” to adopt a municipal tax increase of 10 cents per $100.00 of assessed value. The average taxpayer will see a $98.00 increase for 2009 as the average home is assessed in the borough at $98,000.
In 2008 the Municipal Tax Increase was raised by 15 cents per $100.00 of assessed value. The average taxpayer saw an increase of $147.00.
In other business, Ordinance 08-09 was introduced authorizing the completion of various road and related improvements in the borough appropriating the sum of $86,400 including the repair and/or reconstruction of various roads totaling $69,600; Installation of speed bumps throughout the borough totaling $10,500 and replacement of various road signs totaling $6,300.
Ordinance 09-09 was introduced authorizing the completion of various improvements to buildings and grounds in the borough appropriating the sum of $50,700 including demolition of old and construction of new Salt & Sand Building totaling $34,900 and Installation of handicap ramps at various borough buildings totaling $15,800.
Ordinance 10-09 was introduced authorizing the completion of sewer utility improvements appropriating the sum of $71,000 including Reconstruction of Thompson Avenue, Glover Avenue and Garfield Avenue sewer inlets totaling $39,700 and Reconstruction and Replacement of Borough Sewer Lines, Manholes and Pump Station totaling $31,300.
Ordinance 11-09 was introduced authorizing the acquisition of various pieces of capital equipment appropriating the sum of $311,000 including various pieces of monitoring, communications and field equipment for the police department totaling $31,700; Various pieces of protective equipment for the fire department totaling $86,500; Various pieces of equipment for the public works including, but not limited to, a bobcat tractor, leaf machine, dump truck, asphalt roller and fuel pump station totaling $138,700; computers and office equipment for the borough hall totaling $4,000 and acquisition of a renovated ambulance for the fire and police rescue departments totaling $51,000. The public hearing on these ordinances will be held during the June 4 Commissioners meeting.
The following resolutions were read and approved; Resolution 38-09 authorizing the sale of certain land no longer needed for public use by the borough; resolution 39-09 to affirm civil rights with respect to all employees, appointees, officials, volunteers, contractors and members of the public; resolution 45-09 authorizing the advertisement for bids for the replacement of the Bell Road Fire Station; resolution 46-09 appointing members of the planning board and resolution 47-09 awarding a contract to architectural services for removal of architectural barriers project at Lambert Avenue Facility.
One mercantile license application was submitted for Pete’s Pizza & Italian Grill located at 604 West Kings Hwy. (corner of Grant Avenue).
Public Safety Commissioner Andy Gilmore reported that the police for the month of April answered a total of 385 calls, assisted with 33 EMS calls, made 21 adult arrests, 3 juvenile arrests, served 25 out-of-town warrants and issued 132 tickets for motor vehicle violations. Sgt. Errigo is now back on duty as he was out with surgery & Patrolman Beach is also back on duty after being out with a work related injury.
Public Works Commissioner Bruce Greenwald reported that the DPW collected a total of 77,000 lbs of recycling in the borough. The recycling totals seem to be getting higher each month little by little which means that recycling is working in Mount Ephraim. The DPW cleaned the Shining Star Park for the Easter Egg Hunt that was recently held. The Library repaving project was completed. The 295 / Black Horse Pike resurfacing project that was recently announced was put on hold for the summer so state officials can work with the 295 / 42 / 76 interchange project.
Commissioner Greenwald on behalf of the BOC wanted to thank the police, fire, emergency management, public works and especially the volunteers from the Celebration Committee who put on a huge successful 2nd Annual Craft Fair / Classic Car Show in conjunction with the MEFD’s Fire Awareness Program.
Kudos also goes out to the Mount Ephraim Democratic Association for hosting a town-wide clean-up on May 2 to help spruce up the town.
The next public meeting of the BOC will be held on Thursday, June 4, 2009 commencing at 8:00 pm in the borough meeting room.