Portrait of George Washington Borough of Washington, Warren County, New Jersey

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

LICENSE QUESTIONS:

Q:  I went to Motor Vehicle to get my new drivers license and was told I need a certified copy of my marriage license. What is this? 

Motor Vehicle requires all birth certificates and marriage licenses be certified from the municipality in which the event took place. The church certificate or the pink copy of the marriage license will not be accepted by Motor Vehicle. To obtain a certified copy of a birth/death/marriage license please contact the Registrar at 908 689 3600 ext. 113. All certified copies cost $5.00.

Q: What paperwork do I need to apply for a marriage or civil union license?

All marriage and civil union applicants will need the following: proof of residency, social security numbers, a witness 18 years of age or older who knows you both, and any annulment or divorce papers from previous relationships. All marriage and civil union licenses cost $28.00. There is a 72 hour waiting period before the marriage/civil union license is issued after the application is filled out. More information can be obtained at the following web site: http://www.state.nj.us/health/vital

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RECYCLING / REFUSE:

Q:  Why can’t I put out my glass, plastics, & cans for recycling in a plastic bag?

The Borough’s Ordinance, Chapter 47, requires that these items be placed in a plastic or galvanized garbage can – no plastic bags – for removal.  This practice prevents damage to machinery at the recycling plants caused by plastic bags and prevents litter in the Borough (contractor has no area in trucks to place bags once they are emptied.)

Q:  Why am I limited to using a 32-gallon capacity garbage can with a maximum weight of 60 pounds when filled?

Garbage is picked up in the Borough manually, not mechanically and to avoid injury to the workers it was determined that this size and a maximum weight of 60 pounds is a commonly accepted standard in the industry.

Q:  Where can I get a copy of the Recycling Calendar and other information?

The Borough has a turnstile in the lobby of the Municipal Building which contains various pamphlets of information such as, but not limited to:  recycling calendar, Borough Directory, Chapter 47 – Garbage Ordinance, Citizen Information pamphlet, sign-up forms for recreation programs, and shuttle bus schedule, as well as other information of interest from other agencies.  Other Borough information is available on the Borough’s web site:  http://www.washingtonboro-nj.gov

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GENERAL MUNICIPAL:

Q:  What is the Board of Adjustment?

The Board of Adjustment reviews zoning permit denials. If a hardship exists, the Board of Adjustment has the capability t override the Zoning Officer’s denial if it is determined there will be no detriment to the land use code. If you are denied a permit and whish to have your case heard by the Board, contact the Board of Adjustment Clerk at (908) 689-3600 ext. 130.

Q:  What is the phone number and address of the Business Improvement District?

Washington Business Improvement District, Sandi Cerami, Executive Director, 21 Belvidere Avenue, P.O. Box 32, Washington, NJ 07882   Phone: 689-4800

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 CODE ENFORCEMENT: 

Q:  How can I reach the Code Enforcement Officer?

    The office is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30a.m.-11:30AM.  As the Code Enforcement Officer is often out in the field and it is advisable to call before coming to the building to be sure he will be in the office:
689-3600, Ext. 139.

Q:  How can I reach the Zoning Officer?

    The office is open Friday from 8:00AM - 2:00PM.  As the Zoning Enforcement Officer is often out in the field and it is advisable to call before coming to the building to be sure he will be in the office:
689-3600, Ext. 131.

 

Q:  Does the Borough require a Certificate of Occupancy upon resale of a property and what other inspections are required?                           

A:    The Borough does not require a C.O. upon the resale of properties (required for new construction only.)  We do require an inspection by the Fire Official residential properties prior to transfer of ownership, as well as inspections of commercial properties for compliance with local and State laws by Appointment only: 689-3600 Ext. 123

B:    All residential rental properties must be inspected prior to a new tenant moving in.  At the time of inspection, a Safety and Property Maintenance Inspection, and testing of Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms will be conducted by appointment only. 689-3600 Ext. 139

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RECREATION:

Q: Who can I call for Recreation information?

For information regarding the park and pool, sign-ups, events, or general recreation questions, please call 908-689-3600 X136.

Q:  What is the phone number for the Park?

908-689-7065.  All other recreation related questions, please contact the Recreation Department at 908-689-3600 x136

Q: How do I sign my child up for a sport?

Registration forms are available at Borough Hall or on the web site one week prior to sign-ups. Completed forms and payment can be mailed or dropped off at Borough Hall if you are unable to attend the sign-up session.

Q: What forms of payment do you accept?

We currently accept both cash and check.

Q. At what age can my child be at the pool unsupervised?

11 years of age

Q: Is the park pavilion available for rental?

Yes, please contact the Recreation Secretary at RecSecretary@Washingtonboro-nj.org or call 908-689-3600 x136 for details.

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TAX QUESTIONS:

Q:  What are the office hours of the Tax Assessor?

The office is usually manned on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 5-8:30 P.M. and can be reached by calling:  689-3600, Ext. 129.  Office hours do change from time to time, so you may want to call ahead to make sure the office will be open prior to coming to the office.

Q: Can I pay my taxes my credit card?

The Borough does not currently have the ability to accept credit card payments. You can pay by check.

Q: Can I pay my taxes through automatic debit?

Yes, but you must set it up with your bank.

Q: Can I pay my taxes over the phone?

The Borough does not have the capability to accept payments by phone.

Q: When are taxes due?

The due dates are February 1st, May 1st, August 1st, and November 1st.

Q: Can I make a partial payment?

Yes, but it must be at least enough to cover any interest that is due. Interest is always deducted before any money is applied to the principal.

Q: How can my payment be late if I mailed it on the due date?

We do not accept postmark as the date of payment. Taxes are recorded as paid on the day they arrive in the office and are posted that same day.

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POLICE QUESTIONS:

Q. I received an all night parking ticket in front of my house. Why?

Washington has an all night parking ordinance that has been in effect for many years. There is no parking on any street from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. every day except Sundays and holidays.

Q. Where I live, I don’t have a dedicated parking space or enough parking for all of my vehicles. What can I do?

There are some municipal lots available for all night parking. These municipal lots require a sticker. There may also be other options available. You must see the Municipal Clerk for a municipal lot sticker and information on the other available options.

Q: What if I have overnight guests who need to park on the street?

For vehicles that will be temporarily parked overnight; please contact Warren County Communications at 689-2111.

Q:  I want to sign a complaint. What charge should I use?

The municipal court will gladly accept your complaint however we cannot give any legal advice such as what charges to file.

Q. I’m having a problem with my neighbor, but I don’t want to sign a complaint. What can I do?

You can sign a “Notice in Lieu of Complaint” indicating the source of your neighborhood dispute. The court will schedule this matter before the Community Dispute Resolution Mediation Program. They are mediators trained in resolving neighborhood disputes.

Q: I received a summons (ticket). When is it due and how much is it?

The payment is due by the court date listed at the bottom of your summons. You may access www.njmcdirect.com to find out the penalty amount. If you wish to pay via credit card; log on and follow the directions for payment. You may also mail a check or money order to this court. The address is listed on the back of the summons.

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Washington Borough Financial Questions


Q: Why did my sewer bill go up $7 per month?

In 2010, the Borough Council increased the monthly sewer bill from $45 to $52/Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU).  The amount of the EDU needs to be adjusted from time to time in order to account for operational and debt increases.  In this instance, when the sewer utility came “on-line” in 2000, it was recommended that this charge be revisited and adjusted every three (3) years in order to account for these increases on an incremental basis. By 2010, there should have been three (3) to four (4) small increases over the past ten (10) years versus the small increase in 2006 and the larger one in 2010.  It should be noted that in 2006 the EDU rate was increased, which was the first time the EDU rate was increased since the inception of the sewer utility.

Q:  Since the new manager took over in March 2009, what changes has he made to the Financial procedures of the Borough and what benefits have been realized?

Prior to his employment, there were very little, if any, checks and balances in the financial oversight of the Borough.  No continuity in the position of Chief Financial Officer, numerous deficiencies were noted in annual audits from previous years, not utilizing the Borough’s finance system to its full potential, and  lax or no employee training were some of the major items. As a result of these shortfalls, accurate financial oversight was almost impossible.

Almost immediately, these shortfalls were addressed and corrective actions were put into play, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Creation of separate accounts for Current Fund, General Capital, Sewer Operating & Sewer Capital for better financial oversight.
    • This included ceasing the practice of inter-fund accounting, which allowed moving funds from one fund to another. 
    • NOTE: While the use of interfunds is legally permissible, and when used properly can be an excellent budgeting tool, our financial woes were too great to continue taking these risks.
  • Total restructuring of Finance department to ensure proper oversight while allowing separation of duties.
  • Restructuring/realignment of staff in order to operate in a more effective and efficient manner.
  • Sought approval from the Department of Community Affairs to create a “trust” account dedicated to snow/ice control services.
    • This would allow any unexpended funds dedicated for snow removal to be rolled over from one year to the next.  Any funds that we saved we would not have to raised in the following years budget.
  • Employee Training & Cross Training
    • Specifically in Governmental Purchasing & Financial procedures
  • Creation of a formal Borough Purchasing manual that all Departments, Boards, Committees and Commissions must adhere to ensure that we are compliant with State Law.
  • Correction of missing/inaccurate date in the finance system
  • Monthly bank account reconciliation

 

As a result of these changes, the Borough has realized in increase in their fund balance (AKA “Surplus”) from $39,381.41 in 2008 to $166,830.64 in 2009.  This increase can be directly used to offset the amount of money that needs to be raised in taxes in 2010.

Q: What is the role of the Borough Chief Financial Officer?

In accordance with N.J.S.A. 40A:9-140.1, all municipalities are required to appoint a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  The statute defines the CFO as “the official appointed to be responsible for the proper financial administration of the municipality under the Local Government Supervision Act (P.L. 1947, c. 151); the Local bond Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:2-1 et seq.); the Local Budget Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:4-1 et seq.); the Local Fiscal Affairs Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:5-1 et seq.); the Local Public Contracts Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq.) and such other statutes, and such rules and regulations promulgated by the Director of the Division of Local Government Services, the Local Finance Board, or any other State agency, as may pertain to the financial administration of the municipality.”

In short, the CFO is responsible for oversight of all financial transactions taking place in a municipality in accordance with the statutory references above.

Q: What is the role of the Borough Auditor and how often is the Auditor up for re-appointment and what is the process?

 N.J.S.A. 40A:5-4 requires every municipality to conduct an annual audit of its books, accounts and financial transactions within six months after the close of its budget year, which must be conducted by a Registered Municipal Accountant (RMA)

According to N.J.S.A. 40A:5-5, the scope of this audit “shall embrace the books, accounts and transactions of the local unit and every board, body, officer or commission supported and maintained wholly or in part by funds appropriated by the local unit, unless otherwise provided by statute or regulations of the board.  Each audit shall cover a complete fiscal year and, in addition, shall include a verification of all cash and bank balances as of the date of the audit thereof and an audit of the accounts to such date.”

The appointment of a RMA is done on a yearly basis in accordance with the Local Public Contracts Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:11-5), as it is considered a “Professional Service.”  The law defines a professional services as “services rendered or performed by a person authorized by law to practice a recognized profession, whose practice is regulated by law, and the performance of which services requires knowledge of an advanced type in a field of learning acquired by a prolonged formal course of specialized instruction and study as distinguished from general academic instruction or apprenticeship and training.  Professional services may also mean services rendered in the provision or performance of goods or services that are original and creative in character in a recognized field of artistic endeavor.”  The appointment process itself must be done in accordance with the Pay-2-Play statutes (Chapter 19, P.L. 2004 & Chapter 271, P.L. 2005) and can be done in one of two manners.  The first option, which is defined as the “Fair-and-Open Process” requires the Borough Council to solicit sealed proposals from potential applicants.  Once receives, the governing body can review the submission and begin the contract negotiation process.  The second method, which is defined as the “Non-Fair-and-Open Process” allows a governing body to appoint a person or firm they choose without soliciting proposals from additional sources, but still allowing for contract negotiation. 

Q: Why have my taxes gone up, seemingly every year, with little in return?

Municipal taxes go up each year for a variety of reasons, which include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Increase in statutory obligations (IE: Pension, Health Insurance, Reserve for Uncollected Taxes)
  • Contractual Obligations (IE: Organized Labor Contracts)
  • Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)
    • When the cost of goods and services increases, the costs gets passed on to the Borough when we make these purchases.
    • As a result, the cost associated with providing municipal services increases.
  • Debt Service
    • The principle/interest amounts on Bonds/Notes vary from year-to-year.
    • Currently, the amount of Sewer Debt is decreasing while the amount of Capital Debt is increasing.

The phrase “very little in return” has a different meaning to all residents.  Meaning; if there is a service that you choose not to take advantage of, and this service is cancelled, this will have no impact on your day-to-day life.  On the flip side of that coin, if you use the service and it is cancelled, you will be upset.  The same concept applies to capital projects, which are designed to benefit the overall community as a whole, not just an individual.

Local municipalities are requires to operate under the rules and regulations dictated by the State, whether we agree or not.  Increased un-funded mandates handed down by the State represent a very large burden on taxpayers.  When this occurs, municipalities are being forced to reduce local services in order to fund the State requirements.  As a result, residents are seeing their taxes increase and are receiving less local services. 

 

Q:  Are residential tax dollars going towards funding the Business Improvement District (BID)?

No.  The Borough created a Special Improvement District (Also known as the Business Improvement District) to which only­ commercial/industrial property owners are assessed an additional tax which partially funds the BID.  In addition to the taxes supplied to the BID by commercial/industrial property owners, they (the BID) also have various other revenue sources, which can include fundraising and grant opportunities.
 

Q: Why can’t the Borough refinance our current debt to get a better rate over a longer period of time?

They can, and it is referred to as a “Refunding Bond”, which in government terms is equivalent to refinancing.  In order to achieve this, a “debt restructuring plan” must first be developed and approved by the Division of Local Government Services, Local Finance Board.  Additionally, the Borough would also need advance approval by the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust as this is where the Borough sewer utility debt was approved. 

In order to be approved by both governmental entities above, the Borough would need to authorize the issuance of a “Refunding Bond Ordinance”, which would authorize new bonds to refund/redeem/replace existing ones. This bond would not go into effect until approved by the State if certain criteria are met.  The most important criteria is that the refunding my produce at least a 3% savings overall.  The problem with refunding bonds for the purpose of debt restructuring typically do not produce the State required savings amount, and frequently produce a “dis-savings” as the debt is “pushed out” by extending the final maturity to later years.  Rarely does the State approve these “not for savings” refunding bond ordinances as this actually has a negative impact on the municipality.

Q: What are TANS (Tax Anticipation Notes) and what is their function?

N.J.S.A 40A:4-64 allows municipalities to take out a TAN.  Specifically, it states that “In any fiscal year, in anticipation of the collection of taxes for such year, whether levied or to be levied in such year, or in anticipation of other revenues for such year, any local unit may, by resolution, borrow money and issue its negotiable notes.” 

In simpler terms, it allows municipalities to receive tax revenue in advance of tax collection date(s).  Basically, it equates to an advance on the revenue.  This common practice allows municipalities to ensure that their cash flow is at sufficient levels to maintain government operations.


Q: What are Inter-Funds and what is their function?


Throughout the year over the normal course of operations, it could occur that a bill that should have been paid by one fund is paid by another fund, grant funds received from the outside agency deposited into a wrong account or expenditures reallocated between funds- those occurrences create inter-funds and as a rule eliminated during the year.  The only function that inter-funds carry is to act as a temporary loan of cash from one fund to another.  Those loans and repaid as soon as possible.

Q: Can you explain what a Tax Levy is?

Tax Levy is a total amount of taxes collected for all purposes.  Specifically; Municipal, School, County and Special Improvements Districts.  All of those funds are collected by municipality and paid to all respective agencies.



Q: What is a CAP Bank?

 State law authorizes municipality to increase expenses from prior year by Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) not
to exceed 2.5% while the law authorizes municipalities to increase expenses up to 3.5%.  Because the law limits COLA to 2.5% but authorizes increase to 3.5% the difference of 1% is allowed to be “banked” and utilized in as additional authority for the total budget.  CAP Bank allows municipality to have more room in available appropriations in case of unanticipated increases above 2.5%. For example; in 2009 Pension increases were above 2.5% but at the same time no allowance in CAP was given for this increase and all costs had to be absorbed within the CAP.  The same occurred with health insurance line item in 2010 budget.  State insurance cost increased 18% and had to be absorbed with the CAP.  Municipality without CAP bank would be forced to cut other necessary line Items to accommodate this increase and eventually might have to ask for CAP referendum.


Q: What are the major controllable and uncontrollable expenditures for the Borough?
How are they managed?

In the 2011 budget, major uncontrollable expenses are pension, health insurance, salary increases, debt payments, social security.

    Some other expenses (not classified as major) are also considered uncontrollable are set for 2011 budget.  These expenses include utilities, maintenance contracts for various services, waste disposal fees.

    Major controllable expenses would be funding of other departmental expenses and various Borough programs.  Many expenses are controllable up to the point where decision is made to provide certain service to the residents.  Once decision is made to provide the service, those expenses are not longer controllable by the borough.



Q: Do we really need a Manager for the Borough?

Yes.  According to the Optional Municipal Charter Law (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-1 et seq.), the Council –Manager form of government, which the Borough of Washington has adopted, requires this position.


Q: Does the Highlands Act have any effect on the Borough's finances?

The N.J. Highlands Council can, from time to time, have an impact of Borough finances.  As a municipality located within the N.J. Highlands Region, there are many water-related and planning-related requirements that we must adhere to.  As a result, any mandates that are passed down by the Highlands Council may have a direct effect on the Borough.  Depending on the scope of these mandates, the Borough may need to incur additional costs in order to be compliant with State laws. 

 

Q: What the percentages of ratable and non-ratable properties in the Borough?

Ratables                      374,253,624           91.91%
                                                                             
Exempts                        32,932,624             8.09%

Total                             407,186,249            100% 

 

Q: What cuts will be made to Borough administration? (Manager, departments, administrative assistants).

The decision to reduce departmental budgets can only be made by the Borough Council.  As part of the municipal budget process, the Borough Council reviews all departments “requested” budget.  Once their review is complete, the Council can adjust all departmental budgets accordingly.
Taking the above information into account, it should be noted that, with few exceptions, all departmental spending levels are at or below 2008 spending levels.  The only increases in departmental spending are due to statutory requirements.

 

Q: Why is it that our taxes go up steadily each year and there is still only half-day kindergarten and no bus transportation?

The provision of bus transportation and kindergarten fall solely under the jurisdiction of the Local and/or Regional Boards, not the Borough itself.  Answers to these questions can only be answered by either the Local or Regional School Superintendents.

Q: Are there any more scheduled raises/bonuses for Borough administration and employees?

There are no bonuses ever provided for in Borough government.  As far as salary increases, see answer 26 below.

Q: Has a pay freeze/cut been considered for all Borough employees?

Yes.  Effective March, 2009, the salaries of all part time employee were frozen at their 2008 rates.  This freeze is still in effect for 2010.
The Borough is legally bound to pay unionized employees (IE: CWA Local 1032) their contractually negotiated salary increases during the duration of their contract, which is due to expire on December 31, 2012.  The Borough can not legally reduce employees represented by the union unless the CWA agrees to re-open contract negotiations.
For the remaining non-union employees (2), there are provided a salary increase equivalent to that equal to the unionized employees.  The Borough Manager’s salary in provided for in the terms and conditions of his employment contract. 

Q: Do Borough employees pay into their health benefits? If so, what percentage?

We DO pay a portion of the health benefits – CWA 1032. 


Q: When are the union employee’s contracts up for renegotiation?
 

 The current organized labor agreement with the Communication Workers of America (CWA), Local 1032, is not due to expire until December 31, 2012.