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EGG HARBOR CITY – Comments from members of the public were prime reasons two items did not advance during City Council’s virtual meeting Thursday: the city’s 2020 municipal budget and the creation of the position of public safety director.

“I have concerns about appointing a public safety director," resident and former Councilman Jack Peterson said by phone. "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 assessed property valuation to 3.3 cents. That change would add $40 to the tax bills of a property assessed at the city’s average of $125,000.

Chief Financial Officer Jodi Kahn said 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, while the other half would come from the proposed tax increase.

Mayor Lisa Jiampetti said 57% of a property owner's total tax bill goes to other entities, including the county and the local and regional school districts.

A vote to adopt the amended budget was defeated 6-2.

“It’s back to the drawing board,” Council President Angelo Lello said. It was then decided to schedule a budget meeting at 7 p.m. June 23. It was unclear whether the meeting would take place at City Hall or virtually.

Regarding the public safety director position, Peterson said, “It’s 100% overhead. 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.”

Lello said the director position would only be in effect through the end of the year. Kahn said 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.”

The issue was then tabled to the next meeting June 25.

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