Byram passes $11.9 million budget affected by Covid-19

Byram. Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker noted that the tax levy increased by less than 1 percent despite state mandates that increased pensions, and revenue that was reduced as a result of the pandemic.

| 09 Mar 2021 | 05:53

The Byram Township Council unanimously approved its $11.9 million municipal budget for 2021.

There will be a 0.89 percent increase in the municipal tax levy, with an estimated increase of around $17 for the average assessed home of $254,000, said township manager Joseph Sabatini said at the March 2 council meeting. He said Covid-19 has had an impact on the budget.

He said residents may go to the township website ( and follow the quick link to 2021 municipal budget information for more information. The public hearing and adoption of the budget will be held on Tuesday, April 6.

Although Covid-19 dampened anticipated revenue, Sabatini said the budget accounts for the following reductions and increases in 2020:

$107,000 reduction in interest income

$10,000 reduction in court revenues

$22,745 reduction in Garden State Preservation state aid

$25,000 reduction from delinquent taxes

$75,000 reduction in fund balance to support operations

$35,000 increase in uniform construction fees because of schedule fee changes in the building department

Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker noted that the tax levy increased by less than 1 percent despite state mandates that increased state police pensions by more than 5 percent and non-police pensions by 14 percent, all while still requiring Byram to remain within the 2 percent cap of spending increases.

Without the state mandates, Bonker said, the budget would actually have decreased taxes, as last year’s budget had.

Furthermore, he said, the 2021 budget includes sports equity for the first time, in which the township will treat all sports equally.

The council unanimously agreed to use the three-year average of Covid-19 affected revenue in the 2021 budget. Sabatini said the state passed legislation allowing Byram to average its court revenue for the last three years. Instead of being able to anticipate only $33,000, the anticipated average in the budget is $50,000.

The council also unanimously approved self-examining the budget instead of sending it to the state for approval. Sabatini said the township is allowed a self-exam every two years and send the budget to the state for approval every third year.

Route 206 tunnel work

Planned work on the Route 206 tunnel under the rail lines in Andover Borough could interrupt traffic for up to a year, said Mayor Alexander Rubenstein.

He said he would attend a conference call, along with Sabatini and Councilwoman Cris Franco, with the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) to advocate for Byram Township. He said the township will challenge the DOT in decisions that seem to have already been made and recommend repair as an option.

Sabatini said the project proposes to fix culverts at the Route 206 tunnel, which run under the north and southbound lanes. The diversion of traffic would largely go through Byram Township, Roosevelt Road, and the Tamarack sections of town.

Byram’s infrastructure was not equipped to carry 206 North and South traffic for an extended period of time, Sabatini said.

The project affects Andover Borough, Andover Township, Greene Township, and Byram Township, and anyone who travels north or south on Route 206.

In other business:
Utilities investigation: Mayor Rubenstein said there will be a hearing to review municipal and government official complaints regarding Altice USA at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 16. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is investigating Altice USA. Rubenstein recommended that residents voice their concerns. They must preregister for the call in order to be heard. Altice bought Service Electric Cable Television and provides Byram with cable TV.
Energy aggregation: Mayor Rubenstein said the township, instead of staying with JCP&L, entered into an energy agreement that will save residents at least 7 percent on their electric bills. A typical township household will save around $85 per year, he said, and the entire town would save around $250,000. In the near future, Rubenstein said, residents will receive a letter informing them of the program benefits. Later, they will receive further paperwork from the provider, Energy Harbor, allowing residents to opt out immediately or even a year from now. However, he recommended residents give the program a chance. Good Energy representative John Berg said the aggregation is under a GE program, with reliability and price protection.
Police building: The council unanimously approved paying MJA Construction Services $16,050 for cost estimates and construction consulting for the proposed new Byram Township Police Municipal Building and renovations to the municipal building.
Greener by Design presentation: After discussing municipal building grant opportunities and low-interest loans with Ben Spinelli of Greener by Design, the majority of the council agreed to consult other grant-writing firms before going forward with Greener by Design.
C.O. Johnson Park concepts: French and Parrello Associates will present their C.O. Johnson Park concepts at the March 16 meeting.
Safety and Loss Control Award: Rubenstein announced Byram Township was awarded the Safety and Loss Control Award by their insurance company, as a result of Byram’s keeping its exposure to risk low.
Fire department ice rescue: Councilman Jack Gallagher said a mutual aid ice rescue drill will be held on March 11. He reminded residents that the fire department is looking for volunteers.
Fund law correction: The council unanimously agreed to correct the wording of the current State Training fund law to insure that all volunteer EMTs receive pay for their training, volunteers fulfill a minimum service requirement to maintain eligibility, and paid EMTs do not receive state funding through an unintended loophole.
Read Across America: The council unanimously approved a proclamation supporting Read Across America, a program celebrating reading.