Democrats Point to Sound Borough Finances

Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council in 2019, Madison Planning Board member Rachel Ehrlich and Councilwoman Maureen Byrne and Mayor Bob Conley view the auditor’s report for the Borough of Madison for the 2018 fiscal year. The lead auditor told the council that “the (borough’s) finances are in fantastic shape this year.”

Read the article on the Madison Eagle website

MADISON – In a joint prepared statement, Madison Mayor Bob Conley, Councilwoman Maureen Byrne and Madison Planning Board member Rachel Ehrlich point to a solid  2019 municipal budget and the borough’s record of sound fiscal management under Mayor Conley’s leadership.  Bob Conley and Maureen Byrne are running for reelection in 2019; Rachel Ehrlich is running for her first term on the borough council.

Councilwoman Byrne said, “My colleague on the Finance and Borough Clerk Standing Committee, Councilwoman Carmela Vitale, always says that ‘creating the annual budget for the borough is the most important thing we do on the council.’  I agree.”

Byrne continued, “Although municipal taxes, including the library and Madison’s open space assessment, represent only 22% of a residential property tax bill – the other 78% goes to our schools (62 %) and to the county (16%) – Madison’s municipal budget funds a lot of services that our residents count on.  These include:  police, school crossing guards and fire protection; public works, our recreation facilities and programs; our library and board of health programs and services including our animal and pet programs; senior citizen services; the collection of trash, recyclables, and yard waste; our downtown business development and cultural, historic and arts programs; fall leaf collection and winter snow plowing; as well as Madison’s contribution to the operation of the sewage treatment plant that we share with Chatham Borough. 

In addition to funding all these services, the budget allocates monies to the general capital improvement fund ($3.8 million in 2019), which pays for the borough’s investment in our roads, sewers, public safety and DPW equipment and for debt service ($2.55 million in 2019) for outstanding bonds.  Funded separately by rate payers, the borough also provides electric power and water at competitive rates for all its residents, businesses, schools, colleges and universities and other local organizations.”

“This year, as a result of strong fiscal controls exercised by borough departments in previous years and an additional $370,000 in new recurring revenue from the mixed use (KRE) development on the old Green Village Road School property, Madison taxpayers saw no (i.e., a 0%) increase in the municipal tax rate (the “Local Tax” line on the tax bill) in 2019 – and did so with no decrease in any borough services,” stated Mayor Conley.  “The dividend from the electric utility surplus – payable to our ratepayers as a rate reduction – was also increased from $1.5 million to $2 million this year. With the $2 million dividend along with effective utility management, we have achieved an 11% reduction from the rate Madison residents paid for their electricity back in 2016.  The targeted electric rebate for income-eligible residents was also increased in 2019 from $150 to $200.”

Candidate Ehrlich observed, “It was reassuring hear the borough’s auditor, Valerie Dolan of Nisivoccia Accounting, tell the council in March that Madison is financially in a position that ‘most of our clients wish they were in’ and that the 2019 budget ‘is a very fiscally sound budget.’  More recently, Ms. Dolan added following assessment of the audit report for the 2018 fiscal year, ‘this was a very, very good clean audit’ and ‘the finances are in fantastic shape this year.’

As a first-time candidate for the borough council, I have been most impressed by the measured and open process that the administration and the council goes through as it crafts the annual  municipal budget.  The Madison Eagle agrees, observing back in March: ‘The Madison Borough Council has been a model of transparency, holding a series of open budget meetings since January.’

These meetings included public reviews and approval of the borough’s five year capital plan in December and January and presentations by the individual department heads regarding current year accomplishments, goals and objectives for the coming year and capital requests in February.  Based on these inputs and the parameters set by the strategic planning process, the Finance and Borough Clerk Standing Committee presented a final budget for the council’s approval in March and April. An obvious consequence of all this effort is Madison’s ‘relatively reasonable taxes,’ which is one of the stated reasons New Jersey Monthly Magazine just rated Madison the number one place to live in New Jersey.’”

The candidates concluded, “We are committed to maintaining the responsible fiscal practices established during the past four years. It’s also important that the council continues to look for additional efficiencies to control costs and ways to increase revenues.  New shared services, technology innovations like the use of automated electrical and water metering and high-efficient LEDs for street and parking lot lighting are but a few examples. We welcome the public’s input with respect to other avenues we may explore to achieve these goals.”