HIGHLANDS – Mayor and Council for the second time introduced the $10 million bonding ordinance to finance construction of its long-planned borough hall on Route 36 at Wednesday’s meeting. But if all goes as hoped, the amount to be raised by bond is $4,750,000, which means an increase in the tax rate at about half of what was originally predicted.
Borough finance office Pat DeBlasio reported he and the administrator have been working with FEMA and while they have no guarantee at this point, feel certain that approximately $5 million in FEMA funds will be authorized. If that happens as expected, DeBlasio said, the borough tax rate to finance the new construction would only increase about half of the predicted seven cents, or approximately four cents. Public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the May 19 meeting.
Prior to introducing the budget for the municipal building construction, Council also approved refunding the Atlantic Highlands/Highlands Regional Sewer Authority Bonds of $2.750 million, with DeBlasio saying timing is right for the move, necessary prior to bonding for the borough hall, since the re-bonding will be at a lower interest rate. That public hearing is also set for May 19.
Council also approved its municipal budget for 2020, after only one person spoke, and no one objected during the public hearing.
In a series of questions posed at determining many line items in the budget, which is expected to be reduced the tax rate by one cent, Kim Skorka asked why less funding is included for a grant writer to continue searching for grants available to the borough and told the governing body she does not feel they are searching as well as they could for outside sources to offset costs. Skorka also questioned if the governing body has had any conversations concerning the state analysis of police departments as she has questioned in previous meetings.
In other business, Council introduced an ordinance which would allow Bingo on Sundays, a move Mayor Carolyn Bouillon said would remove the antiquated laws on Sunday games, and set the public hearing for the May 19 meeting. Currently no local non-profit organizations hold Bingo games in the borough.
Mayor and Council also continued its agreement with the Coast Guard station at Sandy Hook for first responder assistance to the military installation in fire and safety emergencies.
Council also approved several resolutions to provide more recreational equipment at borough parks, including a Sport Court at Snug Harbor, playground equipment for Huddy, Snug Harbor and Veterans Memorial parks, as well as playground rubber mulch.
Mayor Broullon announced that beginning with the May 19 council meeting, all municipal meetings will now be held in person and none will be held on Zoom.
Nancy Messina was sworn in as a member of the Highlands Housing Authority.
A borough wide garage sale will be held May 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration is available until May 18 by visiting the borough website or contacting borough hall.
The borough’s annual Memorial Day parade will be held May 29 at 11 a.m., co-sponsored by American Legion Post 143 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6902, the two veterans post within the borough.