Toms River Fire District 1 Budget Shot Down

(Photo by Chris Lundy)

TOMS RIVER – In the recent fire elections, one budget was voted down by residents and will have to be reviewed by the Township Council.

District 1

In Fire District No. 1, there were two people running for one seat. Incumbent Raymond Latshaw won with 474 votes over Warren Chabot, who received 297 votes. There was 1 write-in vote.

There were three questions on the ballot. The first question was about the district’s budget. The rest were about appropriating the budget toward certain projects.

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Question No. 1 was the district’s budget for the year. The amount to be raised by taxation would have been $5,497,530, an increase of $182,680 from last year’s $5,314,850. The budget went down 458 votes to 335.

The tax rate would have increased from 6.4 cents to 6.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The total budget would have been $9,032,603, an increase of $952,729 from last year’s $8,079,874. However, about $700,000 of this increase was actually unspent capital raised in 2017 that was being rolled over and would have had no effect on the taxes, said administrator Brian Kubiel.

Question No. 2 was whether the district could spend $450,000 on replacement fire apparatus. This would have continued a replacement program where the district can make purchases when needed throughout the year, he said. This vote was approved 461 to 328.

Question No. 3 would have appropriated $55,040 for their portion of $86,000 for vehicles for the bureau of fire prevention. This vote passed 434 to 353.

However, with the overall budget being voted down, it will be up to the governing body to determine whether there will be cuts, Kubiel said.

Kubiel is a member of the Township Council, and will have to abstain from the decision. That leaves a possibility of a tie vote on the council, since the remaining members who can vote on the budget are three Republicans and three Democrats.

The mayor is not a tie-breaking vote, township attorney Kenneth Fitzsimmons said. No action could be taken unless a majority of council members agree on the new budget.

At the most recent Township Council meeting, Councilman George E. Wittmann, Jr. said that the council will “see what we can do to reduce that budget.”

District 1 appears to be spending more money than District 2, because District 1 is the lead pay agency for all of the town’s dispatchers, fire training center, and the bureau of fire prevention, Kubiel said.

District 2

In District 2, there were two seats available for three years each, administrator Darlene Gargano said. It was a closely contested race. Incumbent Brian J. Geoghegan retained his spot with 471 votes. Craig Bierbaum joined him, with 435 votes.

The other incumbent, Robert J. Blank, Jr., lost his seat with 423 votes. Nicholas Infantolino received 419 votes.

There were four questions on the ballot, and they all passed.

Question No. 1 was the overall budget, and it passed narrowly, 457 votes to 404. This authorized the district to expend $3,570,693, with $3,070,008 being raised by taxes. It was actually a decrease from last year, when the amount to be raised in taxation was $3,228,221, and the total budget was $4,603,451.

The tax rate for 2018 will be 6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, down from 7 cents in 2017.

The other questions that set aside funds for items fared better.

Question No. 2 authorized the district to buy a fire police vehicle in 2019, in an amount not to exceed $75,000. It passed 613-246.

Question No. 3 authorized the district to upgrade the Opti-Com system in 2019, in an amount not to exceed $155,786. It passed 648-205. This will be an upgrade to the radio system having to do with the devices mounted on emergency vehicles that can cause traffic lights to turn green when they are approaching an intersection.

Question No. 4 was similar to Question No. 3 in District 1. It allowed the district to contribute $30,960 to the total purchase of $86,000 for the Fire Prevention Bureau vehicles. This passed 597-258.