East Brunswick mayor addresses how coronavirus will affect municipal budget

EAST BRUNSWICK–Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Brad Cohen explained how the pandemic has and will affect the township’s 2020 municipal budget.

“Given the pandemic we’re experiencing, the township and the public should know that this budget introduction is subject to change. We have not been informed from the State of New Jersey regarding any specific changes in budget deadlines,” Cohen said. “Due to the inability to predict the length of this pandemic, the administration reserves the right to decrease its planned expenditures and bonding during the year.”

Likewise, Cohen said the township reserves the right to alter its planned use of reserves.

“We do not know what budgetary changes are to come from the state or federal government,” Cohen said. “We should be prepared for the state to take back any of its planned granting programs including, but not limited to, the $750,000 earmarked for the roof at the senior center, $500,000 of transportation Trust Fund money earmarked for road improvements, and the newly announced $1.3 million freight road grant for Edgeboro Road.”

Sitting more than six feet apart from fellow members of the governing body, Cohen delivered a presentation about the municipal budget on March 23 during the Township Council meeting.

Councilmen Kevin McEvoy and Michael Spadafino were present with Cohen; Council President Sterley Stanley, Council Vice President Sharon Sullivan and Councilman James Wendell attended the meeting via phone.

Cohen said the bond market currently does not have enough buyers to purchase municipal notes, so any borrowing would be higher than normal interest rates.

As a result, Cohen said the township must put on hold any commitments to major bonding or large capital outlays until the financial landscape is better defined.

“That being said, the township’s budget proposal for 2020 is very tight and calls for an increase of less than one point for taxpayers with an average home of $378,000,” Cohen said. “This amounts to an increase of $10.38 per household, or less than $1 per month. This budget … still includes the road projects we committed to do and it provides for continuing all essential services that will not be diminished during a crisis or ever.”

Cohen said the township continues to value its employees, and said there are no planned reductions in workforce.

“This is uncharted time. We find ourselves in the middle of a health and financial crisis. My administration continues to maintain fiscal restraints while meeting the functions of government and providing the level of services we deserve,” Cohen said. “Let me thank [Chief Finance Officer] Angel Albanese for her leadership throughout this process and for committing to carrying on the fiscal policy that has seen us through other challenges in the past.”

Cohen said the council and the public are free to contact him at his office by phone or email with questions or comments on the township’s budget for 2020.

For more information, visit www.eastbrunswick.org/360/Mayor-Administrator.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.