Byram adopts $11.9 million budget

Byram. There will be a 0.89 increase in the municipal tax, with an estimated increase of around $17 for the average assessed home of $254,000.

| 13 Apr 2021 | 04:31

The Byram Township Council unanimously adopted its $11.9 million municipal budget for 2021.

There will be a 0.89 increase in the municipal tax, with an estimated increase of around $17 for the average assessed home of $254,000, township manager Joseph Sabatini said at the April 6 meeting.

He residents will find supporting documentation at the township website (, under 2021 municipal budget information.

He said Covid-19 lowered anticipated revenues of interest income and court revenues. One-time items on the appropriations side helped off-set the reduction in revenue:

$20,000 reduction in eliminating a full-time administration position, budgeting for a part-time recreation leader, and eliminating full-time employee health benefits.

$73,000 reduction for retiring police department officers and reducing the police over-time budget.

$106,000 reduction in the group insurance program by moving to the state health care benefit program.

$20,000 reduction in first aid contributions.

$284,400 reduction in capital projects, which Sabatini said will be an issue in the future if the township does not try to fund the capital budget more.

The budget also includes:

$110,430 anticipated fund raising with the 2021 Open Space Tax.

$84,844 increase in pension obligations of around 13 percent.

A three-year capital improvement plan, with an aggressive capital budget for 2021.

Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker said despite the pandemic and “the state jamming a 13 percent pension increase down our throats,” the administration had kept tax levy increase low. Also, for the first time, he said, the budget includes full sports equality.

Councilman Jack Gallagher said between last year and this year, the increase was “probably a net zero.”

Councilman Harvey Roseff said he thought the township could serve residents better by delivering recreation services differently. He was not sure if a part-time or even a full-time recreation position was “the way to go,” and said he looked forward to discussing other options.

Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said the pension numbers were “beyond outrageous,” but the township had to accept them with no representation or discussion. “No one wants to see taxes go up,” he said. “Considering all that has been going on,” he added, it was a “small increase.”

Bonker asked the municipal auditor, Ray Sarinelli, to explain why it was unlikely for Byram to go from a AA+ credit rating to a AAA credit rating.

Sarinelli said Byram is limited in the rateables. Typically the AAA rating has an average of $5.2 billion rateables, and “Byram is well shy of $5.2 billion.”

Bonker noted the total assessed value of Byram is under $1 billion.

In other business:
Street improvements and equipment purchases: Public hearings will be held April 20 on three capital ordinances introduced by the council: Purchase of new equipment for the Department of Public Works, not to exceed $193,000. Capital expenditures for the improvement of various streets, not to exceed $353,443. Improvements to various streets and locations, not to exceed $370,000.
Heating and cooling: The council unanimously approved a contract with Air Group for the purchase and installation of two Fujitsu ductless heat/cool systems for the council meeting room, not to exceed $14,955.
Communications agreement: The council unanimously approved the Small Wireless Communication Facilities Master License Agreement with Verizon Wireless. Roseff expressed concern that the agreement did not include language protecting the town from “ugly placement of Verizon equipment.” Rubenstein said the council would be able to exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to improve cell service along Amity and Tamarack Roads, and the agreement will allow future Verizon work in the town.
Internet services: Township manager Joseph Sabatini said Altice had requested a meeting with the council to discuss testimony given at the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) hearing.
Park grant: Sabatini said the township has started applying for a $2.5 million competitive state grant to improve C.O. Johnson Park. Councilman Bonker said the Open Space Committee will discuss potential acquisitions, developments, and grant funding opportunities for C.O. Johnson and other parks and will continue to roll out outdoor branding efforts to encourage visitors to visit Byram’s lakes, parks, and trails.
Arbor Day: Councilman Roseff said the environmental commission will host an Arbor Day event on Saturday, April 24, at C.O. Johnson Park. New Jersey Nursery seedlings will be distributed for free.
Spring cleanup: Roseff said the Environmental Commission, along with the forester, is sponsoring a spring cleanup on May 8 to remove evasive species from trails.
Resignation: The council unanimously acknowledged the resignation of Environmental Commission member Gerald Murphy.
April proclamations: The council unanimously approved two proclamations declaring April Child Abuse Prevention Month and Autism Awareness Month.
New Cub Scout troop: Mayor Rubenstein said he had recently hiked with about 15 to 20 member of the newly formed Cub Scout Troop 276. Anyone interested in having their children, grades K through 5, join should see the Facebook page or email him.
Firefighter feted: Councilman Gallagher talked about the dinner celebrating Bobby Zimmerman’s dedicated 55 years of service to Byram as a volunteer firefighter.
Easter Bunny: Gallagher thanked the Lakeland Emergency Squad for traveling with the Easter Bunny throughout Byram.
Animal shelter: Resident Patricia Michella asked about Byram’s breaking ties with BARCS Animal Shelter. Mayor Rubenstein said the township entered into an agreement with Hopatcong’s no-kill shelter, who will become the primary service after BARCS vacates the building.
Acorn Plaza easement: Mayor Rubenstein said the township is negotiating a potential easement with the Acorn Plaza landowner, in advance of possible grants paying for an alternate route out of the East Brookwood Estates housing development.