Hiring Freeze In Place During COVID-19

The Township Council discussed the financial impact of COVID-19. (Screenshot by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – The governing body unanimously adopted the 2020 Municipal Budget during the April 28 council meeting, which was once again a virtual Zoom meeting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  The public has the ability to comment on Zoom, but no one did so, which is rare.

  The usual receivables in the budget have changed “drastically” since early March, said Mayor John G. Ducey during his budget comments.

  Several areas of anticipated revenue have dropped 50 percent or more, he added.

  “Sitting here tonight, our anticipated revenues are down close to $1 million, but we were proactive, and very early on, planned for the realities we are now seeing,” Ducey said.

  The administration put a hiring freeze into place, including a plan to hire 12 new police officers that were in a queue. Only one was hired, the mayor said.

  Retirements and vacancies are not being filled, and there are no plans to hire part-time or seasonal employees, he added.

  By taking these measures, the mayor said they have been able to address the revenue shortfall without amending the budget to modify the tax rate increase that was proposed on March 24.

  The $106,031,875 budget has been increased from last year’s budget of $105,675,474 due largely to the costs of health benefits, pension contributions, solid waste disposal, and wages for police, EMS and dispatch.

  The spending plan is supported by an increase in the tax levy of $2,274,232, or just under two cents on the tax rate. This equates to an annual increase of $55.87 on an average assessed home of $294,100 for the part of the tax bill that is controlled by the municipality.

  The remainder of the tax bill is controlled by other entities, including the Brick Township Schools and the Ocean County Freeholders for the county portion.

  Also on the subject of taxes, Mayor Ducey commented on the “tortured history” of extending the grace period for property taxes to Brick residents.

  During the April 14 council meeting, the governing body passed a resolution to extend the grace period for the May 1 property taxes until May 31, which gave residents a 30-day grace period without interest or any penalties, the mayor said.

  “And then suddenly…we get notice from the state that what was done was illegal, and there were veiled threats against licenses and things of that nature,” Ducey said, so he had to make a request to rescind the resolution.

  Then on April 28, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order that would allow towns to offer the extension to homeowners, which has the same content as the resolution proposed at the April 14 council meeting in Brick.

  “So thank you to the Governor for changing your mind,” Ducey said during the council meeting. “I don’t know why the State made us go through all this stress. It was something I was working on for five weeks,” he said.

  During the mayor’s comments at the end of the meeting, Ducey said the township has a whole list of resources available for anyone who needs food, or needs help because of domestic violence, stress and other situations that have arisen during the pandemic.

  Call the administration at 732 262-1240 for help, he said.

  The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, May 12 at 7 p.m.