Hillsdale Council Debates Dog Park Ordinance Amid Budget Talks

In a recent Hillsdale Borough Council meeting, discussions revolved around the proposed ordinance regarding leash restrictions for dogs in municipal fields and the significant 20% increase in the 2024 budget. The budget debates highlighted the need for financial prudence, with a focus on capital expenditures, departmental allocations, and the anticipated $4.4 million surplus.

The council engaged in a thorough debate on the ordinance aimed at modifying the rules for leashing and unleashing dogs on municipal fields. The discussion brought to light different perspectives on the necessity and practicality of such a measure, with emphasis on its enforcement and how it would address the issue of dog waste, particularly during sports events. Concerns were raised about the impact on residents who bring their pets to the parks and the effectiveness of the ordinance in keeping the fields clean. The council did not reach a definitive resolution and decided to further study the ordinance, implying a need for more discussion and potential revisions to the language.

In tandem with the debate on dog park regulations, the council tackled the 2024 budget. The Chief Financial Officer provided an in-depth overview, noting the estimated operational cost for the borough at approximately $19.3 million, a marked increase from the previous year. The tax levy was projected to rise by 3.5%, with the surplus expected to be around $4.4 million, owing largely to interest earnings, developer contributions, and capital reserves. The increase in appropriations, particularly a significant rise in capital funding from $200,000 to $2.6 million, was a focal point of discussion. The surplus was planned for utilization in the Field Improvement Reserve.

The council discussed the budget components in detail, highlighting the impact of the high surplus availability on the town’s financial planning. The budget assumptions and potential actions to address future budget gaps, such as increasing the tax levy or decreasing appropriations, were examined. The conversation also included a review of factors driving surplus regeneration, like miscellaneous revenue, delinquent taxes, and prior year appropriations, with the aim of ensuring the town’s financial stability.

Departmental budgetary increases were a concern, with Public Safety seeing a $280,000 hike due to the first full year per DM first aid and the addition of two police officers. Public Works experienced a $200,000 increase, with incremental headcount, promotions, and changes to the Solid Waste contract cited as the reasons. Insurance costs also surged by about $250,000, driven by workers’ compensation, liability, and health insurance, alongside the ramifications of cybersecurity changes and claims.

The possibility of shared services or in-house solid waste collection was raised in light of 10% yearly increases in garbage pickup expenses, though the council recognized the challenges and considerations this would entail. The proposed capital expenditures, including infrastructure improvements for roads and equipment needs, were debated with an eye on future affordability and the practical utilization of the budget.

There were also discussions about right-sizing the budget to accommodate additional services and manpower, with the council expressing satisfaction with the thoroughness and detail of the budget document.

Other topics discussed included the establishment of a business breakfast, rezoning of the downtown area to attract more ratables, and stabilizing the tax base. The council also addressed a request from Access for All regarding the lack of platform access for disabled individuals at the train station and expressed a willingness to explore different options. The consent resolutions came under scrutiny, particularly the pool commission’s authority to allow alcohol service at events and a resolution to authorize a transfer between budget appropriations.

The council further recognized the mayor’s one-year anniversary in office, with expressions of gratitude towards the staff and department heads for their contributions. Technical difficulties faced during the meeting were acknowledged, as efforts were made to ensure effective communication.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Michael Sheinfield
City Council Officials:
John Escobar, Abby Lundy, Justin Fox, Janetta Trochimiuk, Clemente Osso, John Ruocco

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