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Minutes of Commissioners Meeting   -   April 2, 2008

Note:  Complete Meeting Appears on Tape #10-08 and 11-08  on File in the Borough Clerk’s Office April 2, 2008
Wildwood Crest, NJ

Prior to the opening of the meeting, Mr. Groon led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

 

The meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Borough of Wildwood Crest, Cape May County , New Jersey , was held in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room at 9:30 a.m.  On roll call the following answered to their names:

Gould - Cabrera – Groon – Yes

 

Mr. Groon read the following statement:  In compliance with the Open Public Meeting Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975, the notice requirements have been satisfied as to the time, place and date of holding said meeting by posting notice on the bulletin board in the Borough Hall and by mailing same to the Gazette-Leader and The Press on November 7, 2007.

 

Mr. Groon next announced the one-way in and the one-way out method of ingress and egress in case of emergency.

 

The Clerk announced that the first matter on the agenda was the 2008 Municipal Budget adoption process. THE CLERK READ RESOLUTION NO. 719-08 IN FULL, INTRODUCING THE 2008 MUNICIPAL BUDGET, WHICH RESOLUTION WAS DULY ADOPTED ON FEBRUARY 28, 2008.

 

THE CLERK THEN READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION IN FULL:

RESOLUTION NO. 732-08

(Authorizing that the 2008 Municipal Budget be read by title only and that a Public Hearing be held on the calendar year 2008 Municipal Budget)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that a public hearing be held on the 2008 Municipal Budget.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

The Clerk announced that public comments on the 2008 Municipal Budget would now be received.

 

Prior to public comments, Mr. Groon announced that the Commissioners should be able to answer most of the public’s questions, but if that is not possible, an answer would be provided in a timely manner. Additionally, Mr. Groon indicated that some disparities were evident in the budget documents between 2007 and 2008, and the reason for that was the reorganization of the departments between the Commissioners.

 

Robert Patterson, 8405 Seaview Avenue , inquired if the surplus being utilized ($1,350,000) in the 2008 budget was the total surplus. The CFO responded that the total surplus is $2.8 million. Mr. Groon added that the amount is consistent with what has been used in prior years. The CFO added that the use of surplus is down $20,000 and the actual end of calendar year surplus was down by $68,000. In terms of ratio of what is used, more surplus is being used to balance the 2008 budget than the 2007 budget. The goal of the Borough is to not utilize in excess of 50%. The CFO went on to state that, in terms of utilization of surplus, it would not be fiscally responsible in his opinion to use surplus in excess of “that which you think you can reasonably replenish.”

 

Alan Seijas, 6810 Seaview Avenue , indicated that the newspaper reported that the pension contributions went from $299,000 to $482,982 and inquired as to the reason for that increase and whether it is anticipated that it will happen again. The CFO responded that the Borough officials do not control why that happened. He indicated that the pension systems are set up and administered by the Division of Pensions and the actuaries determine what each municipality’s contribution will be for any particular calendar year. Several years ago, the Division of Pensions and the legislature “gave municipalities a holiday” in which there was no contribution required to be made by the employers. The CFO indicated that the Borough of Wildwood Crest challenged that directive, but was unsuccessful in having it changed. Eventually, the legislature determined that contributions would have to be again made, but they required municipalities to phase those contributions in over a five year period. In 2008 the Police and Fire retirement system will be fully funded. In 2008 the other employees’ system is 80% funded, meaning that in 2009 there will be another significant increase. That will be the final step of the phase-in process. After 2009, every year the employer pension contributions will be based on salaries. Mr. Seijas inquired if there was a possibility of it going down after it is fully funded in 2009. The CFO responded that it would not.

 

George Martin, 212 East Denver Avenue , inquired why, when the legislature instituted the “holiday,” did the Borough not simply put the money aside in anticipation of the contributions being reinstated. The Clerk responded that the CFO attempted to do just that, but the State of New Jersey would not permit it to be done. The CFO stated that that was exactly what the Borough challenged in an attempt to continue to appropriate the money, put it in a trust fund so that when the employer obligations returned the Borough would then draw off what was in the trust fund. The Department of Community Affairs refused to permit the Borough to do that, and would not permit the Borough to adopt a budget with that appropriation in place.

 

The auditor interjected that starting in 2009, the Police and Fire pensions will be within the CAP so the increases under the law should be limited to 4%.

 

Robert Young, 207 East Louisville Avenue , commented “this is scary times in Wildwood Crest.” He went on to comment on the approximately $2 million in interest and principal, the bonding of another $4 million in 2008, and the amount to be raised by taxes is up by over $1 million (11%). Additionally, there are substantial increases in department expenses. He urged the Commissioners to “get a little more conservative” in their spending. Mr. Young stated that in the past the taxpayers “got a lot for what we paid for; now it looks like we are going to pay the piper.” Mr. Groon responded that the Borough is “paying the piper” and a lot of that is state driven, but there is maintenance and infrastructure that was not taken care of in the past that now have to be addressed. Mr. Cabrera added that some of the increases were results of the reorganization of the departments. Mr. Young responded to Mr. Cabrera that all of the increases are in his departments. The CFO responded that the increases are a result of reallocation of personnel. Mr. Young stated that if that were the case, there should have been a reduction in some other department. The CFO indicated that there were reductions, and proceeded to show Mr. Young in the budget document where those reductions were. Mr. Cabrera reiterated Mr. Groon’s comments about “preventative maintenance” not having taken place in the past and as a result of that the Borough is now “playing catch up.”

 

Mr. Young then inquired as to the increased contribution to the Construction Office by $40,000. The Clerk responded that the Borough had to place into the budget $39,900 for an expenditure back to JCOW. The Borough of Wildwood Crest will receive back from the City of Wildwood the sum of $39,900 as an off-set to that contribution because in 2007 the sum of $190,000 was provided by JCOW to what is now the City of Wildwood Construction Office for carry-over of work that had been performed under JCOW but was to be performed by COWCO. Therefore, all four municipalities must return the $190,000 to JCOW in order that the ongoing litigation can be completed, but the City of Wildwood will be reimbursing the Borough of Wildwood Crest the $39,900.

 

George Martin inquired as to what is being received from the new homes being built in the Borough in the way of tax revenues. The CFO responded that the Borough is undergoing a revaluation in calendar year 2008 to go on the books in 2009 which will distribute the tax liability in town more equitably throughout the commercial and residential districts. Mr. Martin asked who is paying the taxes on the new construction and what percentage are they paying. The CFO responded that if the certificate of occupancy has been issued, or there has been a sale of the property, they are paying on 100% of the value of the property. If it is not substantially completed, or the certificate of occupancy has not been issued, those properties are paying on the land only. Mr. Young interjected that the Borough receives 18% interest on the delinquent taxes as well.

 

Mrs. Gould stated that Wildwood Crest is presently assessed, as a whole, at 59.85% as compared to North Wildwood which is at 112% because they recently completed a revaluation. She went on to state that the company will be starting the revaluation process in Wildwood Crest in April 2008 so that in 2009 the entire town will be at 100%.

 

The Clerk interjected that the Borough has recently installed a computer system tying in the Assessor, the Land Use Office and the Construction Office in an attempt to keep track of all new construction and the certificates of occupancy. He invited Mr. Martin to visit the Borough Assessor with any specific concerns.

 

Alan Seijas stated that one of the largest components to the budget is employee health insurance. He pointed out that it went from $1.826 million to $1.920 million. He asked for discussion on how those costs can be controlled. The CFO responded that the Borough of Wildwood Crest began participation in New Jersey State Health Benefits program in 2001 which is administered through the Division of Pensions and Benefits. He went on to state that the primary reason the Borough changed to State Health Benefits was the size of the pool of employees. Until July 2007 the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits forbid any municipality to provide different levels of coverage to their employees. Prior to July 2007 the State recognized the deficiency of the system and permitted negotiations of premium payments for retirees. In July 2007 the ban on other employee groups was lifted. He stated that it is the intention of the Borough of Wildwood Crest to attempt to start having some sort of employee contribution. Mr. Seijas inquired when the next employee contract expires that would permit negotiations for employee contributions. The response was 2008. The Clerk interjected that there is language in that contract that permits a percentage amount with which the members of that unit can contribute. He went on to state that the critical thing to remember is that the arbitration process in the State of New Jersey is so tipped to the police and fire unions that there has been an inability to attempt to get these types of things in their contract without giving something directly back to those units of equal or greater value.

 

Nancy Pietropaoli, 6002 Seaview Avenue , agreed with Mr. Martin’s earlier comments, adding that over the years they have heard from prior governing bodies that all of the construction would increase ratables so much that taxes would go down. That did not occur. She asked that in the future the governing body be honest with the public. The Clerk interjected that that was not a fair statement. Mrs. Pietropaoli stated that the expectations of the taxpayers were high with all of the construction. Mr. Groon stated that he could see why the residents would expect that to happen, but in the past three years there have been many factors that have changed, including the cost of health insurance, gasoline, and pensions.

 

Mrs. Pietropaoli then commented on the proposed projects and asked if some or all of them could be delayed. She specifically questioned the proposed Rambler Road park, stating that it is a good idea, “but can we afford it right now?” The CFO responded that the items Mrs. Pietropaoli mentioned are capital expenditures that the Borough is contemplating issuing debt for. He stated that perhaps the Borough could get through 2008 without those expenditures, but it would be his recommendation that the Borough not reduce the appropriation currently in the budget to fund the down payments since he is a firm believer that a town the size of Wildwood Crest should never close any calendar year with less than $75,000 to $100,000 in the capital improvement fund. Mr. Cabrera stated that many of the projects listed in the Capital Budget are not scheduled to take place in 2008; that they are required by the State as a “future plans” statement. In response to Mrs. Pietropaoli’s question regarding delaying some of the projects, Mr. Cabrera stated that many of the projects are necessary because they were not undertaken in the past and are now urgent.

 

Mr. Cabrera went on to state that the Commissioners have asked all employees to be not just one dimensional but to multi-task. The Clerk added that the Borough has commenced the process, over the last year, of hiring more part-time employees to save on health insurance costs since those employees working less than 20 hours per week do not receive the medical benefits package.

 

Mr. Martin questioned Mr. Cabrera with regard to the recreation appropriation for $850,000. Mr. Groon responded that that is the appropriation for the Rambler Road Park project. Mr. Martin stated that he had read in the newspaper that that project was cancelled. Mr. Cabrera responded that he believed what Mr. Martin had read was that the full project was not going forward, but the grant in the amount of $310,000 to bring the area up to ADA compliance was provided to the Borough and that project will go forward. Therefore, the project was included in the budget with the understanding that the application for the grant was pending. Mr. Martin questioned what the Borough will have to pay for the project. Mr. Cabrera responded that it would be the $850,000 minus the $310,000. Mr. Martin stated that he did not think it was necessary to spend $500,000 on this particular project. Mr. Cabrera responded that there is a parking element to the project which will bring additional revenues to the Borough. Mr. Groon stated that there are additional elements to the project as well, including the beach patrol project that transports handicapped people to the water’s edge. That program has become extremely popular and the existing parking cannot accommodate those who wish to participate in the program. He added that the existing bathrooms are substandard and need upgrading. Mr. Martin reiterated his opinion that the Borough is spending too much money and something needs to be cut.

 

Mr. Groon responded to Mr. Martin’s comments by stating that “nobody is going to take care of our community but ourselves,” adding that the more we take care of ourselves on a regular basis, the better off we will be.

 

Ed Masterson, 7301 Pacific Avenue , commented on the Rambler Road Park . He indicated that Rambler Road is the “epicenter” of the Wildwood Crest beach in the summer. He suggested as an additional form of revenue the rental of handicapped beach wheelchairs because the beach patrol cannot continue to transport the numbers of people who require the service. He agreed with the Rambler Road Park project. Mrs. Gould thanked those present for being interested in their community, and asked them to give back to their community.

 

Alan Seijas inquired about the recreation appropriation in the amount of $90,450. Mr. Cabrera responded that that is part of the departmental reorganization and ongoing maintenance of the buildings.

 

George Litella, 301 East Lotus Road, inquired about the increased ratables and asked why there is not a surplus of tax revenue due to those increased ratables. The CFO responded that it involves two issues. First, the amount of surplus being generated in the Borough is significantly higher than ten years ago and is keeping pace with the increased ratables. Mr. Litella inquired if the vacant buildings being inhabited in the next year or two will increase revenues. The CFO responded that it could be possible to a small extent, but not likely due to State “budget reforms.”

 

Ed Brackness, 301 East Myrtle Road, asked for confirmation that if a certificate of occupancy has been issued on a property, even if it is unoccupied, taxes are still due and payable. The response was in the affirmative.

 

Alan Seijas, commented on the increase in the MUA appropriation and questioned the increase. The CFO responded that the MUA has a regional rate setting formula. Therefore, what happens in other municipalities can impact the MUA assessment in Wildwood Crest based upon flow from throughout the region.

 

There being no further public comments on the budget, Mr. Cabrera motioned, seconded by Mrs. Gould, that the public hearing on the 2008 Municipal Budget be closed.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

The Clerk announced that the 2008 Municipal Budget would not be adopted since there were potential amendments to the Municipal Budget to be presented in an upcoming Commission meeting. Advertisement and hearing requirements will be held and made in compliance with budgetary law.

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Groon, that the meeting be recessed for five minutes prior to the resumption of the regular meeting.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

The regular meeting was reconvened at 11:12 a.m.

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING ORDINANCE BY TITLE ONLY:

ORDINANCE NO. 1060

             AN ORDINANCE AMENDING AND SUPPLEMENTING ORDINANCE NO. 936 ENTITLED “AN ORDINANCE REGULATING SPECIAL EVENTS AND USE OF MUNICIPAL FACILITIES OR GROUNDS OF THE BOROUGH OF WILDWOOD CREST, COUNTY OF CAPE MAY AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY,” ADOPTED JUNE 25, 2003

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that Ordinance No. 1060 be passé don first reading, advertised according to law, be brought up for second and final reading and public hearing on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 733-08

(Authorizing Approval of Change Order No. 1-Street and Utility Reconstruction of Seaview Avenue-Phase 1, and increasing the City of Wildwood portion of the contract, only, an additional $60,800)

 

Mr. Cabrera motioned, seconded by Mr. Groon, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 734-08

(Authorizing a refund of tax or sewer utility overpayments in the amount of $2691.15 and $2660.12, to GMAC Mortgage, for property situated at 6901 Park Boulevard and 6900 Park Boulevard, respectively)

 

Mr. Cabrera motioned, seconded by Mrs. Gould, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 735-08

(Authorizing the CFO to issue a replacement check in the amount of $324.96 to Louis Baselice)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 736-08

(Authorizing the Tax Collector to issue a duplicate Tax Sale Certificate to US Bank, in conjunction with property situated at Block 132, Lot 1, otherwise known as 8300 Seaview Avenue)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

THE CLERK READ THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION BY TITLE ONLY:

RESOLUTION NO. 737-08

(Authorizing support for restoration of the full funding/status of the State Office of Tourism)

 

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the foregoing Resolution be adopted.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

Mr. Cabrera motioned, seconded by Mrs. Gould, that all bills properly authorized, as submitted and fully contained on the following page, be paid.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

The Clerk/Administrator reported that there have been meetings held between the Borough Engineer, the Chief of Police and the Clerk/Administrator with regard to the NJDOT Safe Streets to Schools Program grant application. He indicated that the cost factor to the Borough of Wildwood Crest is $4,200 for the application to be submitted by Triad Associates on behalf of the Borough and that any proposed project should certainly exceed this cost. From a grant “infrastructure” standpoint, the concerns are that if any of the design areas for drop off of school children or other uses to be applied for, if directly situated on school property, must be presented to the Board of Education for approved prior to April 18, 2008. Additionally, some of the discussion with the Chief of Police and Engineer centered around the potential for the bike path as a consideration along the route designated along Seaview Avenue and then westerly along one of the side streets on Newark or Trenton Avenues to the school. That discussion was abandoned because of the significant traffic congestion to be experienced on these ill-equipped side streets . Mr. Groon stated that he was in agreement to abandon the project due to the limited possibilities to be pursued. Mrs. Gould and Mr. Cabrera also agreed.

 

With regard to Store No. 4 at the Crest Pier, the Clerk asked for confirmation from the Solicitor that in order to change the terms and conditions of the bid received, the entire bid must be rejected and the store/bid readvertised. The Solicitor concurred. Mr. Gould inquired if the Borough can negotiate with the bidder. The response from the Clerk was no because a similar bid process was not effectuated on two occasions. Mr. Groon agreed that the bid would have to be rejected and readvertised with the new terms. The Clerk stated his opinion that if the lease period is changed, it will have to be advertised twice. Mr. Groon reiterated that it is in the best interests of the Borough to reject the bid and change the lease term.

Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the bid on Store No. 4 of the Crest Pier be rejected, and the store be readvertised with a revised lease term.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

The Clerk requested that the governing body provide him with convenient dates for a special meeting/work session to discuss three items for the 2008 Municipal Budget, including the telephone system upgrade, the Rambler Road Park project, and some other budgetary issues to be brought forth by the CFO.

 

The Clerk reported that he has received correspondence from the County of Cape May with regard to the Public Health Advisory Committee, indicating that there is a need for representation by each of the sixteen member municipalities. The Clerk asked for the governing body to make the determination as to whom to appoint. Mr. Groon stated that for consistency in reporting to the governing body, that appointment should be from the Clerk’s office. Mr. Cabrera inquired if it should be a Borough employee or a resident. The Clerk responded that it was his opinion that it should be an employee or appointed official. Mr. Groon suggested that if it was assigned to the Clerk’s Office, and if it becomes a burden, the matter can be revisited in the future. Mr. Cabrera stated that he thought it was more of a public safety position.

 

Ed Masterson commented on behalf of the Beautification Committee that this would be a good time for “crop sharing” or “crop rotation” since some of the planters in the Borough are well maintained and others are “sparse.” Mr. Cabrera stated that the Beautification Committee lost two very important members and he was not sure if the leadership of the organization is intact. He added that the problem being faced is that the planters are not irrigated and whatever is planted does not survive. He has asked the Engineer to look into an “economical” way of getting water to the planters.

 

Robert Young inquired about the revaluation, asking if it is going forward. The response was in the affirmative by the Clerk who added that it has a targeted 2009 tax year implementation.

 

George Martin inquired as to the sales figures to be utilized in the revaluation. The Clerk responded that they will use sales figures up to October 2008. Mr. Martin asked what happens now that the market has dropped. The Clerk responded that anything that is selling now will reflect that decrease. Mr. Groon interjected his opinion that the Borough is in a better position doing the revaluation in this environment than a revaluation in the environment of two years ago.

 

Ed Masterson inquired if the revaluation would be based on sales figures only, or if square footage would also be involved. The response was that all factors will be considered, including square footage, comparable sales, land, etc.

 

There being no further matters for discussion, Mrs. Gould motioned, seconded by Mr. Cabrera, that the meeting be adjourned.

Vote:          Gould-Cabrera-Groon-Yes

 

Dated:        April 23, 2008

Kevin M. Yecco, Borough Clerk

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