MADISON – In a joint prepared statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Councilwoman Astri Baillie and former Madison Board of Education member Debra Coen point to the borough’s record of sound fiscal management.
The candidates noted that “two years ago 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.’ Last 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.’
This year the Eagle projected in February that from its look at the draft municipal budget that ‘all signs point to stability and no large one-year spikes in taxes.’ The editorial concluded: ‘So far, so good.’ In June, the borough’s auditor told the borough audit committee, ‘You are in great (financial) shape.’ ”
Ms. Baillie, who is currently the Council liaison to the Finance and Borough Clerk Standing Committee, reminds us that “it wasn’t always like this. When I first ran for Council with Ben Wolkowitz in 2012, there were issues with the budget. It was hard to assess, and the development process seemed opaque. We therefore pledged to provide transparency throughout the eight-month period that the budget is being crafted. And together with the borough administration, we have. To quote from the Eagle (in April) again, ‘While the same can’t be said about all communities, the introductions of the proposed municipal and school board budgets in Madison (this year) turned out to be transparent, entailing real work by officials in explaining how pages and pages of number would impact taxpayers in dollars.’”
Debra Coen continued. “The Eagle’s February projection of stability and no spike in taxes for 2018 proved to be right on. This year, taxpayers have seen an increase in the municipal tax rate of less than 1% with no decrease in borough services. Over $6.2 million has been allocated for borough-wide capital improvements, and again this year, the borough will be returning $1.5 million in the form of a dividend from the electric utility surplus to our electric utility customers. The $150 targeted electric rebate for income-eligible residents is also being continued in 2018.”
The candidates stated, “We are committed to maintaining the responsible fiscal practices established during the past three years – practices that utilize the guidelines developed through the strategic planning process originally proposed by Mayor Conley and led by Ben Wolkowitz. The guidelines provide specific measures that are applied during the budget process. The measures and the recommended levels for conformance are designed to ensure that our municipal finances are managed in a prudent manner.
We also believe that Council should not just rest on its accomplishments, but must continue to look for additional efficiencies to control costs and ways to increase revenues. Adding additional shared services, introducing technology innovations like the use of automated electrical and water metering (all units in the KRE development have automated electric meters) and using high-efficient LEDs for street and parking lot lighting are but a few examples.
This year we began 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 soon be Madison’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, which is now completing construction, 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. Beginning next year, it is going to have a very positive impact on our ongoing municipal finances. The annual PILOT payments that will go to the borough are now estimated to be $500,000 a year, which will make the property the largest single source of property tax revenues for the municipal government.”
Astri Baillie concluded, “As Council liaison to the Finance and Borough Clerk Standing Committee, I am proud of the record of this Council, supported by our superb borough administration, of crafting responsible, conservative budgets in a transparent and understandable way 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, Debra and I will work with our colleagues on Council to build on the processes already in place, so that future budgets will continue to be described as being ‘boring’, ‘no large one-year spikes in taxes’, ‘transparent’ and ‘great’.”