Council sets $500,000 aside for future project

Measure won out vs. using money for capital improvement


The question of what to do with a $500,000 contribution from development firm Hartz Mountain was narrowly decided upon by the Edison Township Council during its regular Dec. 10 meeting.

Two different resolutions amending the township’s $118 million proposed budget to include the money were presented to the council that night. One placed the money in the capital improvement fund and the other placed it in the capital reserve fund — both, technically, the same fund, but the money would be handled differently, depending on which resolution would be enacted.

The 2-4 vote means that the money, which was part of the agreement Hartz made with the township so it could build a large commercial complex, will go toward the capital reserve fund. The two “no” votes, Councilman Anthony Massaro and Councilwoman Antonia Ricigliano, supported placing the money in the capital improvement fund. The remaining voters, Councilmen Robert Diehl and Sudhanshu Prasad, Councilwoman Melissa Perilstein and council Vice President Wayne Mascola, supported placing the money in the capital reserve.

“It’s really how you want to approach things moving forward, whether you want more flexibility and the ability to leverage or if you want to move forward and identify some specific purpose,” said township Chief Financial Officer David Hollberg.

The difference between putting money in the capital reserve fund and placing it in the capital improvement fund lies ultimately in how flexibly the money can be used. If the $500,000 had gone into the capital improvement fund, it could have been used for pretty much any project in the budget, from a new roof for a public building to new equipment for public workers. The funding would be used to put a down payment on the various capital improvement projects.

Placing the money in the reserve fund, however, means that it’s, at least partially, set aside for use in specific projects, such as open space purchases or a new community center. The money would be isolated from the rest of the budget so it would be able to be used exclusively for a specific purpose that would be determined later. The township will not be able to appropriate money from the capital reserve fund without an ordinance being passed.

Supporters of placing the money in the capital improvement fund said the $500,000 could be used to pay off the entire capital improvement line item in the budget, which Massaro said amounted to about $300,000, and that the remainder could go to tax relief. Overall, he said, this would save residents on their taxes.

“It’s good to have reserves. … But we’ve got a situation in front of us right now,” said Massaro, talking about the current economic climate.

Supporters of the measure that passed did not mention their reasons when taking the vote, nor did they discuss a specific project that would be funded by this money.

One project that might get additional attention now that extra funding has been set aside is a community center on the 7.5 acres of open space that Hartz gave to the township as part of the redevelopment agreement. While nothing specific has been said about such a facility, including whether or not it would even be built, the project has support from Mayor Jun Choi, who about a year ago commented that the open space deal would be much better with a community center included.

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