With the beginning of a new year also comes the beginning of a new budget season.
Montville Township officials have already put hours of work into developing the 2013 municipal budget. Budget appropriation estimates were discussed at Tuesday's township committee meeting, with general appropriations anticipated to increase in 2013 by about $405,372 over last year's budget, representing a 1.42 percent increase.
Township Administrator Victor Canning said Thursday the figures presented to the township committee were preliminary and that there is still much work to be done in determining the municipal budget and how it will impact taxpayers.
"By state statute, we're supposed to, within the first week of January, convey a budget message, as admininstrators, to our elected officials that we've officially started the budget process," he said.
Included in the message, Canning was pleased to say that the township was able to decrease salaries and wages by $101,519 this year. He said this was done through attrition, including not hiring a new township engineer after Tony Barile retired, reducing a captain's position in the Montville Township Police Department as per a recommendation in the police study conducted this year and by privatizing services.
While the township was able to reduce costs in the area of salaries, Canning said costs beyond the township's control are the cause of the increase in general appropriations. This includes a 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums, terminal leave payouts owed to employees who retired in 2012 (a $269,495 increase this year) and the settlement of several tax appeals amounting to more than $800,000.
"Those three things alone are recipes for disaster," Canning said.
Canning said the township was able to save more money, however, by settling tax appeals than what could have been spent if the municipality entered into litigation.
"We probably would have risked way more than that," he said.
Canning said he is unsure at this time whether a change in technology at the Parsippany-Troy Hills Wastewater Treatment Plant that appears to have shifted the cost burden on Montville more than anticipated will have an impact on the 2013 budget and what the impact may be.
While the general appopriations shed light on some of the areas the township will spend money in the upcoming year, Canning cautioned that the figures offer only a glimpse of what's to come in the budget process.
The township is planning to introduce its municipal budget March 15, with plans to adopt a budget by April 26. However, Canning also said the budget adoption timeline is dependent on the state Library Board's returning of surplus money to the township.