The Following Is An Update Letter From Mayor Earlen & The Township Committee Regarding The Mt. Holly MUA
Friends and Neighbors,
Earlier this year, I wrote to you on behalf of the Township Committee in response to the many complaints we received from Lumberton residents regarding the 40% increases in the Mount Holly Municipal Utilities Authority’s (MUA) sewer bills over the past three years. At that time, we pledged to work to address the unfair billing rates charged by the MUA and the absence of any Lumberton representation on the MUA board. We appreciate the overwhelming support you have expressed for our efforts to fight for what is fair for Lumberton residents. I am writing to give an update on these efforts.
As you may recall, the Township Committee has raised three issues with the MUA, beginning with the decision to increase Lumberton’s residential and commercial sewer rates by more than 40% since 2013. Second, Lumberton residents do not share the same “host town” benefits that Mount Holly residents enjoy, even though the MUA’s sewer processing facility is physically constructed in Lumberton Township. Mount Holly residents enjoy sewer rate and connection fee discounts of 25% below the rates paid by Lumberton residents. Third, although Lumberton is the largest town that the MUA serves, our township has never been represented on the MUA Board and therefore, we believe that our concerns are not being appropriately or adequately represented. The MUA Board is currently comprised of individuals appointed by the Mount Holly Township Council only, including several Mount Holly Council members. As such, it is little surprise that Mount Holly residents enjoy such generous discounts at the expense of Lumberton taxpayers. Lumberton Township has been fighting to receive the same “host town” sewer rate reduction as Mount Holly residents, along with two seats on the MUA Board so that Lumberton’s rights are properly represented.
Sadly, we have had to resort to hiring a special counsel and filing numerous Open Public Records Act requests in order to gain answers to the concerns raised by our residents. The documents reveal that Mount Holly Township consistently uses the Mount Holly MUA to fund the municipal budget. That means the exorbitant fees paid by Lumberton residents are being used to fund Mount Holly Township. Over the last several months, we have also learned the following about the MUA.
- In addition to charging Mount Holly residents and businesses lower rates, the Mount Holly MUA Board makes a yearly payment of $365,150 to the Township of Mount Holly as a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). In fact, in 2013, two months after the MUA voted to raise Lumberton’s rates, the Board passed Resolution 2013-67, which amended its budget to increase that PILOT amount from $240,150 to the current $365,150.00. When asked how the MUA will fund this increase, the Deputy Director of Finance stated (as recorded in the minutes of August 8, 2013), “the recent rate increase will cover the additional appropriations.” To put this in perspective, the Mount Holly Town Council appoints its own members to the Mount Holly MUA, who in turn send hundreds of thousands of Lumberton ratepayers’ dollars back to the Mount Holly Council for their budget. This is just wrong and unjust to the hard working residents of Lumberton.
- In what we believe to be a hollow attempt to satisfy one of our complaints, the Mount Holly Township Council, without any consultation with the Lumberton Township Committee, appointed one Lumberton resident to the MUA Board. It is our opinion that this is a callous act to give the appearance of openness and cooperation when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. This new Board member has not contacted any member of our Township Committee, nor Township administration to discuss your complaints or what is right and just for Lumberton’s ratepayers.
- Now, to our amazement and disgust, this week the Mount Holly MUA notified Lumberton Township that it is increasing sewer connection fees AGAIN. Already amongst the highest in the Burlington County, this additional increase in connection fees presents an even greater barrier to growth for Lumberton businesses and developers, putting Lumberton at a disadvantage compared to its Mount Holly neighbors.
We began this effort to ensure that Lumberton’s residents and businesses receive fair treatment and relief in their billing and connection fees, and open and honest representation on the MUA Board. Now, we also believe that the MUA owes Lumberton ratepayers an explanation as to why it cannot be afforded the same benefits that Mount Holly residents enjoy and why the Mount Holly MUA is balancing the Mount Holly Township budget on the backs of Lumberton residents.
Why is it that the Mount Holly MUA’s rates are so much higher than others in the region? What makes it so much more expensive to process sewage in Mount Holly than elsewhere in Burlington County? Please be assured that the Lumberton Township Committee intends to find out why and will continue to fight for Lumberton’s residents and businesses. We ask for your continued support in this cause as we work to keep pressure on the members of the MUA Board to do what’s right. To voice your concerns, contact the Mount Holly MUA at email@example.com or by calling 609-267-0015.
Sean W. Earlen
Lumberton Township Introduces 2017 Budget with a 3% Tax Cut
Once Adopted this Budget will Equate to Roughly a $30 Saving
to the Average Assessed Home of $292,917.00
March 15, 2017 – Lumberton Township – Tuesday evening, the Lumberton Township Committee introduced its 2017 Municipal Budget, which lowers the Local Tax Levy by 3% or roughly 1 penny for every $100 of assessed value. This represents a local tax rate decrease from last year’s 0.421 to this year’s 0.411. The amount to be raised in taxes through this budget equates to an overall reduction of $169,950, taking the total tax levy from $5,860,229.02 in 2016 to $5,690,279.02 for 2017. In all, the entire budget appropriations for the 2017 Budget is $8,787,936, which is $128,561 less than the $8,917,497 appropriated in the last year’s 2016 Adopted Budget.
“We are extremely proud to introduce this year’s budget, which reduces the burden on our local taxpayers while maintaining all of our core Township Services, including staffing our Police Department at its increased level of 20 Sworn Officers,” stated Mayor Sean Earlen. “I would like to thank Committeeman Mansdoerfer, our Liaison to the Finance Department, our Township Administrator Brandon Umba and the rest of the Township Staff, who worked tirelessly to implement this responsible municipal budget”, added Mayor Earlen.
One main element impacting the 2017 Budget and future budgets is the total annual debt payment, which decreased from $1,197,575 to $702,117, allowing the Township to close on a capital bond for the cost of its new Public Safety Building, without impacting local taxes. Using this sizeable gap in debt payments, the Township was able to structure its new capital bond so that annual payments remained within that gap, eliminating any tax impact to the Township’s taxpayers. Additionally, due to the Township’s recent credit rating increase from Standard and Poors, Lumberton taxpayers realized an additional savings of $479,569 in interest payments over the life of the 25 year bond that was acquired to cover the cost of the new Public Safety Building. This savings would not have been achieved without the credit rating increase from AA- to AA.
“Since the economic downturn, our Township has made strides to stabilize our Municipal Budget to ensure minimal impact on our residents, while maintaining all core municipal services at levels expected by our taxpayers, all while our ratable base decreased,” stated Committeeman Mike Mansdoerfer, liaison to the Township’s Finance Department. “In the past 10 years, Lumberton’s ratable base has dropped by over $56 million, the lion share or roughly $47 million of that loss has come in the last 5 years, causing significant impact to our municipal budgets during that time. However, even with that ratable loss, the Township has been able to consistently decrease our total annual budget to the tune of $1,197,204 in the last 10 years and this year’s budget culminates all of our past efforts by providing tax relief to our residents,” explained Committeeman Mansdoerfer.
“The fact that we have been able to provide our residents with a tax cut and fund the construction of a new Public Safety Building is a true testament to hard work of our Township Committee and staff. Though it is always hard to predict future budgets, we are hopeful with our ratables stabilizing or even increasing as we suspect, that our future budgets will remain flat over the next several years,” concluded Mayor Earlen.
Lumberton Township has set its Budget Adoption hearing for 7:30pm on Tuesday evening April 25, 2017 at the Lumberton Municipal Building, 35 Municipal Drive, Lumberton, NJ 08048. Residents are encouraged to attend.
Burlington County to start cost-saving energy aggregation program for some towns in fall
Mt. Laurel Sun Article, July 16, 2016
Burlington County Freeholder Mary Ann O’Brien has announced that the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders’ cost-saving Energy Aggregation Program will go into effect this September, with participating residents expected to see savings in their October electric bills.
“This Energy Aggregation Program allows Burlington County to make a ‘bulk purchase’ of energy supply at a rate that is guaranteed to be lower than what residents are currently paying to their electric company,” O’Brien said. “We can then offer that lower rate to our residents in participating municipalities. This will help to decrease the ever growing cost of utilities, an issue particularly important to those on a fixed income.”
The Freeholder Board hosted a competitive auction on Tuesday, June 14 to determine the program’s new fixed rate.
“I am pleased to announce that this process has enabled us to obtain real savings for our residents,” O’Brien said. “Customers of Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) will recognize a savings of at least 20 percent over their current rate, with customers of PSE&G recognizing a savings of at least 5 percent and Atlantic City Electric (ACE) customers seeing a savings of at least 13 percent; for an average of more than 12 percent in savings over 14 months.”
O’Brien said combined this means a total savings for residents of more than $2.8 million.
“One of the great things about this program is that, by law, it must offer our residents the lowest available rate,” O’Brien said. “This means that if at any time the default utility rate were to fall below the rate we received at auction, participating residents would receive that lower rate. That way, the savings are guaranteed.”
O’Brien said now that the aggregate rate has been determined, residents in participating towns will receive the lower rate, or they may ‘opt out’ of the program to either their current utility rate or to a third party provider.
“In that way, this plan not only lowers costs but also expands consumer choice by providing residents with a third option not currently available to them,” O’Brien said.
The Burlington County Bridge Commission will partner with the Freeholders to execute the energy aggregation program, providing technical and professional support and services.
This program was made available to all municipalities in Burlington County. Ultimately Burlington City, Cinnaminson, Florence, Lumberton, Moorestown, Palmyra, Southampton, Riverside, Woodland, and Wrightstown all chose to participate in this first round of the program. Those municipalities that have not chosen to participate in this initial launch will have an opportunity to do so in subsequent rounds of the program.
“This program is part of our long standing effort to fight for lower utility costs on behalf of our residents, a fight in which we have had many successes,” Freeholder O’Brien said. “For example, many will remember our public battle to stop New Jersey American Water from increasing water rates by 20 percent in 23 of our municipalities. We gathered more than 11,000 signatures from residents, and confronted the BPU through the mail and in person. When the smoke had cleared, their bid for a $95 million per year rate increase had been cut to less than a third of that amount.”
Please Click on the Below Link to Access the Outreach Kit for the Burlington County Energy Aggregation Program.
Lumberton Township Holds Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for it’s Two Newest Playground at Bryan Freeman Park in the Bobby’s Runs Section of Town
Lumberton, NJ – October 31, 2016 – After two months of construction, the Lumberton Township Committee is set to open its newest playgrounds as part of its Phase 1 refurbishment of the recreational parks located in the Bobby’s Run section of the Township. Phase 1 consisted of replacing both playgrounds located at Bryan Freeman Park, as well as the playground at Turnbridge Drive. The Turnbridge Park officially opened last weekend.
In Phase 2 is also underway and will completely refurbishing the tennis courts located at Bryan Freeman Park This overall project is a continuation of the Township Committee’s commitment to refurbishing the Public Parks and Playgrounds throughout the Town, all of which have all been funded in part by grants from the Burlington County Municipal Park Development Program.
Mayor Sean Earlen stated, “the grand opening of these last two new state of the art playgrounds located at the Bryan Freeman Park rounds out the Township’s 2016 playground reconstruction plan and my colleagues and I are proud to have all three playgrounds now open for our residents to enjoy.” “We have been very fortunate over the years to receive well over $875,000 worth of grant money provided by the Burlington County’s Municipal Park Development Program. As you drive throughout the Township it is great seeing all of the completed projects being enjoyed by our residents and visitors to our great town,” added Mayor Earlen.
To date, Lumberton Township and the Burlington County Freeholders have teamed up to construct a brand new playground, Community Garden and Dog Park at the Village Green, a Canoe Launch on the Rancocas Creek, sports fields at our Municipal Building Complex, and now the refurbishment of Turnbridge Park and Bryan Freeman Park’s Playgrounds.
“Partnering with the Burlington County Freeholder Board has been a no brainer decision for the Township Committee,” added Committeeman Jim Conway, who serves as one of the Engineering Project liaisons to the Township Committee. “This year in particular has been extremely good for Lumberton Township as participants in the county’s Park Development Grant Program due to the fact that several of our past projects provided by these grant funds finished well under budget and we were permitted to use all of our leftover grant money to refurbish three playgrounds in the Bobby’s Run Section of the Township,” stated Committeeman Conway.
Bryan Freeman Park will be open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week to be enjoyed by Township Residents.
Lumberton Township Marks the Grand Opening of it’s Newest Playground off of Turnbridge Drive in the Bobby’s Runs Section of Town
Lumberton, NJ – October 15, 2016 – After two months of construction, the Lumberton Township Committee is set to open the first of three playgrounds as part of its Phase 1 refurbishment of the recreational parks located in the Bobby’s Run section of the Township. Phase 1 consists of replacing both playgrounds located at Bryan Freeman Park, as well as the playground at Turnbridge Drive. In Phase 2, the Township is completely refurbishing the tennis courts located at Bryan Freeman Park, and expects construction on that project will wrap up by the end of October/beginning of November. This overall project is a continuation of the Township Committee’s commitment to refurbishing the Public Parks and Playgrounds throughout the Town, all of which have all been funded in part by grants from the Burlington County Municipal Park Development Program.
Mayor Sean Earlen stated, “today we mark the grand opening of this new state of the art playground, which is one of three that the Township will be opening this month.” “We have been very fortunate to receive $878,710.00 dollars in grant money from the county and these dollars have been put to good use by building a brand new playground, Community Garden and Dog Park at the Village Green, along with a Canoe Launch located across the street from Village Green on the Rancocas Creek, sports fields at our Municipal Building Complex, and culminating with the refurbishment of Turnbridge Park Playgrounds,” added Mayor Earlen.
“One of the greatest aspect of this project in my mind is it serves a staple for community activisms, earlier this year residents came together through the petition process to request the refurbishment of this park. During a Township Committee meeting this past February, several residents in the neighborhood surrounding the Turnbridge Drive Playground, submitted their collective request for the Township to update this park and fortunately enough it was on our radar to be refurbish through the Burlington County Grant program,” stated Mayor Earlen.
“With the help of the Burlington County Freeholder Board, the Township Committee has been able to completely transform the recreational features our Township has to offer our residents and visitors,” added Committeeman Jim Conway, who serves as one of the Engineering Project liaisons to the Township Committee. “However by far, the best aspect of this grant program is the Township being able to use any remaining funds from previous projects to refurbish both playgrounds at the Bryan Freeman Park, which is a great reward for keeping all of our county sponsored projects well under budget and we expect to open those playgrounds next week,” stated Committeeman Conway.
Turnbridge Park will be open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week to be enjoyed by Township Residents. The Township expects to open both playgrounds at Bryan Freeman Park starting on Monday October 17, 2016 and hopes to open the new Tennis Courts at Bryan Freeman Park by the end of October/beginning of November.
Lumberton Township Recognizes the Lumberton Emergency Squad For its Continued Efforts to Provide Exceptional Care to the Residents and Visitors of the Township
Lumberton, NJ – September 14, 2016 – At the regularly scheduled Township Committee Meeting on September 13th, 2016, Mayor Earlen and the rest of the Township Committee lauded to the Lumberton Emergency Squad (LES) for their efforts since the new EMS contract was implemented at the beginning of this year. On March 8, 2016, the Committee adopted a Resolution which provided for a new contract for emergency medical services within the boundaries of the Township, seeking to provide an even greater level of care to all residents and visitors to the Township. That contract was issued to a newly reorganized Lumberton Emergency Squad, Inc.
Mayor Sean Earlen stated, “Recognizing the passing of the first 6 months of this new contract and the successes brought by it, was a priority for my colleagues and me on the Township Committee because the majority of these dedicated individuals are volunteers and we wanted to acknowledge their efforts. Under the leadership of their new Chief Jamie Wood and President Dan Januseski, the Lumberton Emergency Squad has added 17 additional emergency care personnel through streamlining their new member approval process, 6 of which are currently enrolled in EMT classes, 2 are Administrative Support, which has increased their total membership to 27 active volunteers and 8 career personnel.”
Committeeman Mike Mansdoerfer, who serves as the Township Committee Liaison to the LES along with Mayor Earlen stated, “We are extremely thankful for our volunteers both new and existing at the Lumberton Emergency Squad, these individuals are willing to drop what they are doing at any given moment to go help a stranger and it is important for us to recognize their efforts. By implementing 24/7 duty crews, cross training with both the Lumberton Fire and Police Departments and initiating dual response with the Fire Department for critical calls, our Township Emergency Personnel are able to render appropriate and timely treatment of any patient they come in contact with during their shift. Most importantly, the LES has decreased its response time by a full minute over last year’s responses.”
In addition, to issuing the Proclamation to the Lumberton Emergency Squad, the Township Committee issued Appreciation Certificated to various Members of its Emergency Services for three separate incidents that resulted in those personnel saving the life of the patient on those calls who was in Cardiac Arrest.