Byram hires a financial advisor to show how debt will affect taxpayers

Byram. The council decided that the township needs a comprehensive debt management plan to guide the township through its capital expenditures over many years.

| 14 Oct 2021 | 03:37

The Byram council agreed to hire a financial advisor to help the township manage its debt.

On Oct. 5, the council voted 4-1 in favor of paying Phoenix Advisers $2,500 to guide the township. Councilman Harvey Roseff voted against the measure.

Reviewing capital expenditures, Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker said the township has many needs. For the new municipal building project, the council will first receive the final construction documents, then put the project out to bid, and finally bond for the money needed to pay for it.

He said the township has other capital needs, including the ten-year project plan for CO Johnson Park, possible fire truck purchases, road work, and Department of Public Works equipment. Bonker said one of its ten-year bonds is set to expire in 2025.

The township has American Rescue Plan money to help pay for some of its needs.

In light of all those things, Bonker said, Byram needs a comprehensive debt management plan to guide the township through its capital expenditures over many years.

“Interest rates aren’t going any lower,” he said. “They have started to rise.”

Bonker said the township needs to lock in as soon as possible and manage its debt so that property owners do not see a significant increase in their tax bills.

If the township proceeds with the comprehensive debt management plan, he said, the $2,500 will be fully credited against any bond fees. Nearby communities, like Vernon Township and Mountain Lakes, have used the Phoenix Group and their auditor and bond council, he said.

Roseff said he does not believe in financial engineering and does not want Byram to go down the “wrong path.” Furthermore, he said, Vernon has real problems with “some bad deals,” which he blamed on professional oversight.

Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said Phoenix Advisers will give a very clear picture of the bond structure, and how it will affect taxpayers for the entire life of the debt. Also, he said, the model will help guide the township in the future.

New Lenape High School Superintendent: Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said he met the new superintendent, Michael Rossi, and took a tour of the school and Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) lab.
Single Rescue Pumper: Fire Chief Todd Rudloff discussed combining two aging fire trucks into a single rescue pumper, which he said will save about $475,000 by pushing the next truck replacement from seven to nine years .
Dirty Dirt: Councilwoman Franco recommended revisiting the ordinance on dirty dirt (contaminated soil and debris). Mayor Rubenstein agreed, saying, “They should dust off the previous dirty dirt ordinance.” He said two households will need to take out second mortgages on their homes to pay for remediation, and that residents need to be better informed so that they do not accept truckloads of contaminated fill. Councilman Roseff said the DEP did not enforce its own regulations in Vernon and Wantage, and that passing another regulation will not lead to better public awareness.
256 Route 206 Stanhope: Officials agreed to pay the township engineer to evaluate and represent Byram residents’ interests with the Stanhope Land Use Board.
Mansfield Community Advisory Group: Councilwoman Cris Franco said she and the mayor attended a Mansfield Community Advisory Group meeting to remedy East Brookwood contamination. She said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection were working to help the residents of 19 impacted wells, with two impacted wells not claimed. Currently, she said, negotiations were taking place with the Suez Water Company to pump water to the affected homes.
Fire Department Coin Drive: Councilman Jack Gallagher said the coin drive will take place on Oct. 16 and 17 along Route 206.
State’s Best Practices: Township Business Administrator Joseph Sabatini said the State’s Municipal Best Practices for 2021 is due Nov. 3. He said state aid is withheld based on answers to 48 questions, and that the township is expected to have more than enough correct answers to receive aid. Suez Water Company Shed: Rubenstein said the planning board will review the proposed Suez Water Company shed to be installed for the water tower.
Natural gas: Mayor Rubenstein said the board reviewed the New Jersey Natural Gas’s plan to provide natural gas to the southern end of the township — Brookwoods, Lacawanna, municipal building, and Route 206 corridor — along with road opening permits and costs. Next week, he said, New Jersey Natural Gas would receive the Board of Public Utilities ratification with Byram Township, and then conduct a marketing survey, receive feedback from residents, and develop calculations and forecasts.
Elizabethtown Gas: Mayor Rubenstein said Elizabethtown’s natural gas installations are in progress. In the future, he said, there will be a conference call reviewing their layout plan for surveying and expansion over the next year.
Verizon along Amity Road: Mayor Rubenstein said Byram approved Verizon’s installation of three micro-cells along Amity Road, which should correct Verizon cell phone coverage issues. After the Amity Road work is finished, he said, the council will discuss with Verizon covering areas around CO Johnson Park, Roseville Roadm and Tamarack Road. Rubenstein said he has also reached out to T-Mobile and AT&T for more information.
CO Johnson Dog Park: Deputy Mayor Bonker said the Open Space Committee will review the latest CO Johnson Dog Park design. Then the architects, engineers, and designers will share their plans with the Highlands Council for feedback. If all goes well, groundbreaking could happen in the spring.
New Municipal Building Project: A resident asked for a public referendum on the new municipal building project, saying taxpayers and residents should decide the outcome.
Movie Night: Mayor Rubenstein said Tamarack Park’s Movie Night showed “Back to the Future.”