EGG HARBOR CITY — Comments from members of the public were prime reasons why two items did not advance at the Egg Harbor City Council’s virtual meeting on Thursday, June 11. Those items included the passing of the city’s 2020 municipal budget and the creation of the position of public safety director.
City resident and former councilman Jack Peterson expressed his opinion by phone.
“I have concerns about appointing a public safety director,” he said. “It’s hard to swallow a tax increase under these circumstances. Other communities are having hiring freezes.”
His comments followed a proposal to change the increase in the local tax rate from 2.5 cents per $100 of property valuation to 3.3 cents. That change would add an additional $40 this year to a property assessed at the city’s average of $125,000.
Chief Financial Officer Jodi Kahn reported that the city was losing a $33,000 dividend from its joint insurance fund. A proposal was made to make up half of the loss from a proposed land sale and the other half would come from the proposed tax increase.
Mayor Lisa Jiampetti said 57% of the tax bill goes to other entities including the county and the local and regional school districts.
A vote to adopt the amended budget was then defeated 6 to 2.
“It’s back to the drawing board,” Lello said.
It was then decided to schedule a budget meeting for 7 p.m. June 23. It was undecided whether it will be able to take place at city hall or virtually.
The ordinance to create the position of public safety director was then addressed.
“It’s 100% overhead,” Peterson said. “It doesn’t put any boots on the ground. The hours the appointee is expected to serve is listed at 20 to 29 hours a week. That is too big a spread. That person needs to be held accountable.”
Council President Angelo Lello pointed out that the director position would only be in effect through the end of the year. Kahn pointed out that the cost to the city would be $16,800 for the remainder of the year.
“It does affect the budget,” Councilman Bob Ross said. “This is why I voted against it. The budget could be lower without this appointment.”
“Why do we need this position?” resident Nanette Galloway asked. “Is this something the mayor wants?”
“This was not my decision,” Jiampetti said. “I see this as leadership of the police department being taken away from me.”
That led to a lengthy discussion as to whether the position being part-time usurped the mayor’s authority.
“You are still the appropriate authority under this ordinance,” city attorney Angela Costigan said.
“I think it needs to be clarified,” Jiampetti said.
The issue was then tabled to the next meeting June 25.
City Clerk Meg Steeb also announced that two polling places will be open for the primary election July 7. Those sites are the Teamsters Hall at 1 Philadelphia Ave. and the American Legion Hall at 527 Philadelphia Ave.