The three-town municipal court we'd been working on the past month (that story here) is now a reality. Starting October 1st, one shared municipal court will serve Chester Township, Mendham Township, and Chester Borough.
Chester Township and Mendham Township had already been sharing the court for nearly two years, and each municipality saw savings as a result. With a third municipality in our agreement, we are excited to create more efficiencies, generate additional savings, and provide an exceptional level of service for all three towns. This is a big shared services win for our communities.
Big thanks to our friends in Chester Borough and Mendham Township for their cooperation and mutual trust.
I hope you get a chance to pick up today's Observer-Tribune, which provides a detailed update on our work to expand the municipal court we already share with Mendham Township (at a savings of $30,000 per year) to also include Chester Borough. This is important work that not only reduces costs and thus saves taxpayer dollars, but also provides greater efficiencies for our municipal staff and shared Chester Police Department. Click below for the full article.
Tri-court combination takes a step forward
One municipal court to serve the Chesters and Mendham Township came a step further to reality at Tuesday’s Township Council meeting. The council unanimously approved a resolution to create a court that would serve three municipalities. Mendham Township is expected to consider the plan next Tuesday. Chester Borough officials said they want to discuss the proposal further before voting on it.
The shared municipal court would be convened in Chester Township but each court retains its own identity. It provides for shared court staff including court administrators, prosecutors and security personnel. Along with the added savings, township officials said it is a positive move, especially because the township and borough share a police force.
Last night, the Chester Township Council passed the 2019 municipal budget, which includes no increase in the municipal tax levy. As liaison to our finance department, I couldn't be more proud of the work that went into this budget - from our mayor, the Council, our Chief Financial Officer, our Administrator, and each department head. The process of creating the budget and the result itself were sound, responsible, and respectful of the taxpayer.
The Top-Line Numbers
The Chester Township budget for 2019 is $14,770,399.81, of which $8,669,600.78 is raised through property taxes for municipal purposes. The rest is accounted for in grants, state aid, and revenues such as building and construction permits and our shared service agreements (more below).
It was a pleasure to once again welcome Senator Tom Kean to Chester tonight. Special thanks to co-hosts Mayor Marcia Asdal and Councilman Tim Drag. We had a solid discussion about the reality of New Jersey’s fiscal crisis.
This morning, Mayor Marcia Asdal and I had our first meeting with Chester Township's CFO to discuss the 2019 budget. The budget process is truly my favorite part of serving on the Council. You not only see firsthand how years of responsible decision-making, conservative budgeting, and shared services have helped Chester Township avoid major tax increases or emergency spending, but also identify areas for new thinking and better prioritization. I'm totally focused on helping deliver a fiscally responsible 2019 budget. Stay tuned for additional updates this spring.
Check out the below story from the Observer Tribune about our continued efforts to streamline local government and find new opportunities to share services. You can also click here to access the article.
Mendham, Chester, Washington Township officials consider more shared services
Representatives from the Chesters, Mendhams and Washington Township have been getting together over the past two months to explore additional ways to share services.
The Ad Hoc Shared Service Task Force was initiated by Mendham Township Committeewoman Sarah Neibart with help from Chester Township Councilman Mike Inganamort in an effort to have the towns help each other more on a regional basis. Although the group has only met twice, talks are ongoing and the idea of sharing equipment and manpower in a number of municipal departments in order to reduce costs now and in the future is gaining traction.
“It’s something both Sarah and I had discussed a few months back,’’ Inganamort said. “I think it was because we were both new to our governing bodies. We thought it would be worthwhile. We have had two meetings and they both went really well.’’
One of the most important responsibilities of an elected official is to steward taxpayer dollars in a responsible way. In New Jersey, that typically requires balancing expensive state mandates with local needs. In my six months on the Chester Township Council - and as liaison to our finance office - I've seen firsthand the diligent, long-term planning that has put our town in a strong financial position, able to sustain the types of unforeseen events that would otherwise trigger very expensive tax increases.
Chester Township's budget
The Chester Township budget for 2018-2019 is $14,121,524, of which $8,669,609 is raised through property taxes. The rest is generated through revenues such as our shared services agreements (Chester Borough pays Chester Township $120,000 for police services, Mendham Township pays Chester Township $30,000 for municipal court services), building and construction permits, cell towers, and other sources.
Separate and apart from the Chester Township budget are the budgets from the Chester School District (42% of your tax bill), the West Morris High School District (24% of your tax bill), and Morris County (12% of your tax bill). The Chester Township budget is 21% of the total tax bill.
Thank you to everyone who attended our January 3rd Chester Township re-organization meeting. It is such an honor to serve and to have been sworn into office by our Morris County Sheriff, James Gannon. I'm truly humbled and, by the looks of it, eager to see how Ella does on the Council, too.
Hope you can join us on Wednesday, January 3rd at 7:00pm at Town Hall (1 Parker Road) for Chester Township's annual reorganization meeting. We'll have Sheriff James Gannon administering the oath of office, and then dive right in to a short agenda. See you there!
We won big last night and have you to thank for it! Meeting so many of our neighbors and talking about the future of our town has taught us so much and deepened our commitment to making Chester Township as great in ten, twenty, and thirty years as it is today.
I'm thrilled with the result, honored by your support, and serious about the work ahead. I also know I can't do any of this alone. I hope you'll stay engaged in the progress of our town by attending Council meetings, volunteering to serve on local boards and committees, and responding to our future calls for support for key initiatives.