LETTER: Budget claims on Madison candidate’s website are misleading

TO THE EDITOR: On his campaign website, the Republican candidate for the Borough Council, Michael Martinez, states that “Spending has increased by over 30 percent over the past ten years,” which is true if you look at the increase in total municipal appropriations from the years 2013 to 2023.

From this observation, he concludes that “each year, the Madison Council increases its Budget by ~3 percent.” That is patently false.

Had the candidate looked at the increase in borough appropriations over the nine-year interval from 2014 to 2023 rather than the ten-year interval of 2013 to 2023, he would have seen a completely different conclusion. Over the nine-year interval, the cumulative increase was only 17%. This means that the borough budget grew at an average rate of only 1.75 percent per year over those nine years – less than the Fed’s target inflation rate and far less than his claim of 3 percent per annum!

So, what happened in 2014? Well, in the mid-2000s and early 2010s, the Republican-dominated council underspent on the borough’s infrastructure. The obvious consequence was that the condition of Madison’s streets and roads had deteriorated. By 2013 they were in terrible shape.

What investment that was made in infrastructure was funded by a dramatic 80% drawdown of the general capital fund and ultimately, by one-time sales of borough property. In 2011 no money had been appropriated to the capital fund! By 2013 the appropriation had grown to $1 million, which was an improvement, but not near enough to halt the deterioration.

Then in 2014, the new Democratic majority appropriated a sustainable $3.5 million from the growing utility surplus to the general capital fund. So that year, the total borough budget grew by a one-time increase of $3.66 million. And the condition of our roads and sewer system finally began to improve.

This is all very interesting, but it really is the municipal tax rate and not the size of the budget that impacts Madison taxpayers. Over the same ten-year interval from 2013 to 2023, the municipal tax rate increased by just 10% for an average annual increase of less than 1 percent (0.96 percent)! In 2014, the municipal tax rate actually decreased slightly.

Municipal campaign platforms should be about informing voters about the candidates and the candidates’ positions on the issues. They should not be to misinform and mislead.