MADISON – In a prepared statement, Councilmember Rachel Ehrlich of Kings Road and Library Trustee and Board of Health Member Tom Haralampoudis of Pomeroy Road point to the Madison Borough Council’s record of sound fiscal management guided by the 2014 Strategic Planning guidelines, which they commit to maintain if elected. Rachel Ehrlich is running for reelection in 2022 and Tom Haralampoudis is running for his first term on Council.
“Municipal taxes, including the library and Madison’s open space assessment represent only 22% of a residential property tax bill; the rest goes to the schools and county,” stated candidate Haralampoudis. “And yet, that 22% goes to help pay for services that we all count on daily: police and fire protection; school crossing guards, public works, recreation facilities and programs; our library, health department, and senior citizen services; the collection of trash, recyclables, and yard waste; downtown business development and cultural, historic and arts programs; sewage treatment; and seasonal leaf collection and snow plowing.
In addition, the Council allocates monies from the electric utility surplus to the general capital improvement fund, which goes for improvements in Madison’s roads, sewers, new public safety and DPW equipment and for debt service. Funded separately by rate payers, the borough also provides electric power and water – at competitive rates and with superior service – for all its residents, businesses, schools, and other local organizations.”
Ms. Ehrlich continued: “The borough was able to maintain services and the $2 million electric dividend in 2022. We were also able to maintain the borough’s fund balance which helps ensure our long-term financial stability and protects us from expected and unexpected future issues. Importantly, the Borough retained our AAA bond rating, one of just 24 towns in New Jersey to have earned this.
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This year’s fiscal plan was constructed by an open budget process and in the face of serious revenue losses due to Covid-19, an increased bond interest obligation, and possible tax appeals due to a shrinking commercial rate base. Over the past two years income from the commuter lot fees, municipal court fees, and interest on bank deposits alone dropped by over $1 million due to the pandemic. Together, these challenges necessitated a 2% increase in the municipal tax.”
“As recently as 2019, Madison had a 0% increase in the municipal tax rate, and through the nine years from 2013 through 2021, the cumulative increase in the residential tax rate was only 6% thanks to ongoing construction, the exercise of strong fiscal controls, departmental cost containment measures, alternative sources of revenue, and increased shared services,” observed Mr. Haralampoudis. “In neighboring towns like Chatham Borough and Florham Park the total increase was over 12%, or twice that of Madison. Mountain Lakes, Bernardsville and Berkeley Heights saw increases over 20%.”
Ms. Ehrlich expressed pride in the Council’s response to Covid-19: “We moved quickly to adapt the 2020 budget. By April, we had introduced the Mayor’s Covid-19 Crisis Response Toolkit. Madison set the bar for helping residents and businesses cope with the financial devastation wrought by the pandemic. Had the Council adopted the irresponsible policies of sharp cuts in electric rates and reducing the borough’s fund balance advocated by past Republican candidates, this would not have been possible.” she stated.
“At the same time as we were providing direct financial relief to community members impacted by layoffs and closures, we preserved our $200,000 commitment to renewable energy initiatives and our 2020 commitment to funding the Open Space Trust Fund. We showed that Madison could create a long-term vision for a safe and healthy community through a fossil-free future while providing direct relief in times of economic stress.”
Ehrlich and Haralampoudis concluded, “As candidates, we are committed to maintaining the responsible fiscal practices and following the transparent open budget process established over the past decade by the Madison Borough Council.”
Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council in 2022, Councilmember Rachel Ehrlich and Library Trustee and Board of Health Member Tom Haralampoudis state that they are committed to maintaining the responsible fiscal practices and open budget process established over the past decade by the Madison Borough Council.