MADISON – In a joint prepared statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Council President Carmela Vitale and John Hoover point to the success of this year’s municipal budget process.
The candidates noted that “last year the Madison Eagle commented that the 2016 budget fell ‘into the boring category – maintaining the services residents have come to expect and providing for improvements without any sticker shock for taxpayers.’ The paper went on to conclude that ‘this kind of ‘boredom’ is good.’ This year the Eagle editors stated that ‘the Borough Council and administration deserve praise for their months of work in crafting a proposed budget for 2017.’ The editors then concluded that they had done a ‘Great Job.’ We agree.”
Ms. Vitale, who serves on the borough’s Finance and Borough Clerk Standing Committee, stated that “when I was returned to Council in 2012, services were being cut; we were not investing adequately in our roads and water sewer systems; Madison’s AAA credit rating was in jeopardy, and there was even an attempt to publically fire the borough administrator.
We’ve come a long way since then. This year taxpayers are seeing an increase in the municipal tax rate of less than 2% with no decrease in borough services. We are transferring $3.67 million to the General Capital Improvement Fund, of which nearly $3 million is going for road improvements. In contrast, only $750,000 was transferred into the Capital Improvement Fund in 2012, and that was an improvement over 2011, when no money was transferred!
In addition, this year we are returning $1.5 million in the form of a dividend from the electric utility surplus providing an effective 8% reduction in residential electric bills for the year. This is also the first year since I returned that the budget was unanimously approved with a bipartisan, 6 – 0 vote of the Council.”
John Hoover observed, “I believe that if we continue the fiscal practices established during the past two years, utilizing the guidelines developed through the strategic planning process first proposed by Mayor Conley, we are going to see more ‘great job’ municipal budgets in the coming years. The guidelines, which are approved by the Council by resolution each year, provide specific measures that are applied during the budget process. The measures and the recommended levels for conformance are designed to ensure that municipal finances are managed in a prudent manner.
The Council will also need to keep looking for additional efficiencies to control costs and increase revenues. Adding additional shared services, introducing technology innovations like the new utility billing system, the planned introduction of “smart” electrical metering and LED street and parking lot lighting are but a few examples.
The Joint Court has been a win-win shared service for Madison and the other participating communities. Our most recent addition to the Court was Morris Township, and we recently added Cranford as contracting community for the Board of Health. Another shared service that many people are unaware of is that Madison provides IT services for four other communities.
Next year we will begin to see the fruits of the borough administration’s successful efforts to get Allergan to lease and expand the old Pfizer building on the Giralda property. Allergan will become the borough’s largest single taxpayer and when fully occupied, its projected 1,800 employees will also make it a major customer of our water and electric utility.
The KRE development under construction on Kings Road, which has already contributed $11 million to the Board of Education’s capital fund and $1 million to help pay for the turf fields at the MRC, is going to have a very positive impact on our ongoing municipal finances. The projected annual $400K in PILOT payments to the borough will represent almost 3% of all property tax revenues going to the municipal government. Likely to be occupied by predominately “empty nesters” and double income young couples with few if any children, the complex will be adding substantial tax dollar revenues to both the borough and to the Board of Education with minimal impact on borough services or our schools.”
Ms. Vitale concluded, “As Borough Council President, I am proud of the ability of this council, supported by our superb Borough Administration, to craft responsible, conservative budgets that provide for adequate investment in our roads, sewer systems and water and electric utilities while maintaining and improving municipal services and controlling taxes. Looking forward, John and I will work with our colleagues on council to build on the processes already in place, so that future budgets will also be described as ‘boring and ‘great’.”