Byram councilman slams state for big increases in retirement payments

Byram. The state is requiring that Byram pay $80,000 more for the retirement plans of public employees and firefighters while also complying with the township’s 2 percent budget cap.

28 Dec 2020 | 04:14

During a time of tight budgets, Councilman Raymond Bonker said the New Jersey state government has made things worse.

At the Dec. 15 Byram Township Council meeting, Bonker said the state is requiring Byram to pay $80,000 more for the Public Employees’ Retirement System, a 5.6 percent increase, and the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS), a 14.6 percent increase. In addition, he said, the two amounts have to come in under the township’s 2 percent budget cap.

“This is just unconscionable fiscal mismanagement by the State of New Jersey,” Bonker said. “It is a screaming example of why defined benefit systems – pensions – must be replaced with defined contribution systems – 401k’s and IRA’s.”

He said residents “are being gouged and fleeced by New Jersey to make up for past promises which should have never been made. This is big government at it’s absolute worst.”

Little Paint Way

Joseph Sabatini, the township manager, said originally a project to replace a 36-inch pipe and mitigate flooding on Little Paint Way cost $260,000. However, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will not support just a strict pipe replacement as part of a hazard mitigation grant application. Instead, the state requires a three-sided box through which animals can travel under the road, and road widening for traffic flow, which will cost $520,000.

Bonker said the initial $260,000 project was rejected by the DEP based on fragmentation of habitat for bobcats and warm weather fish, thus increasing the amount to $520,000.

Engineer Cory Stoner said the boxes are terrestrial crossings, because with smaller structures, animals cannot cross underneath the road — “Critter crossings.” The boxes add “a lot of cost,” Stoner said, and rules and reviewers at the DEP changed.

Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said bobcat fragmentation means an “inadequate gene flow in Byram Township.”

If the township receives the $468,000 federal grant, Sabatini said, the town will pay $52,000. If not, the town will fix the pipe for $90,000 as a capital project.

In other business:
East Brookwood alternative entrance: Township attorney Thomas Collins will finalize an easement agreement with property owner Barry A. Feldman, including concerns about liability, potential damage, and future uses. The council agreed to pay $2,000 to $3,000 for the legal work.
New municipal building project: The cost estimate and plans are on the website for the public to review.
Township clerk and registrar retirement: With tears, appreciation, and well wishes, Township Clerk and Registrar Doris Flynn oversaw her last meeting. Flynn worked for Byram Township for over 23 years.
Clerk appointed: The council unanimously appointed Cynthia M. Church to be the municipal clerk and registrar, effective Jan. 1, 2021. Sabatini said Church had worked with the town for over 13 years.
Reorganization meeting: The Byram Township Reorganization meeting will be held Jan 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Mayor Rubenstein recognized: The Sussex County Economic Development Partnership recognized all mayors throughout Sussex County for their work during the Covid-19 challenges.
Holiday Lights Contest: 230 homes participated in the Recreation Committee’s lights contest this year.
Planet Networks: Councilman Harvey Roseff said residents should fill out an online survey at getplanetfiber.com if they’re interested in bringing a new internet provider to Byram.