MADISON, NJ – In a rescheduled budget meeting, department heads met with the Borough Council on Monday to present their goals and budget requests for 2014. The session was combined with the regular council meeting.
“There will be another budget discussion at the Feb. 24 council meeting,” Finance Chairman Ben Wolkowitz said, with the budget to be introduced on Monday, March 10. He added that tax collection was "excellent," at 99.46 percent.
Police Chief Darren Dachisen said that 2013 had been a challenging year, but that Madison has been recognized as one of the safest communities in New Jersey. The department’s budget, he said, is basically flat. Two more police officers are needed because of retirements. There are currently 26 officers on the force. He has requested three vehicle replacements, which will be financed from different budgets. The council discussed pay for crossing guards and the fact that they often collect unemployment when not working. Council member Carmela Vitale suggested looking at other towns to compare payment.
Lisa Gulla of the Health Department said in-house printing will reduce costs and upgrading technology, such as the use of tablets, will make the department more efficient. The department is developing a strategic plan and a mission statement, as well as pursuing grants. Gulla said she had compared the feasibility of Madison having its own health department versus going to a county health plan, but costs were almost the same. Councilman Robert Landigran noted the efforts made in providing emergency shelters and other services to residents. The department also offers health education programs.
David Maines of the Department of Public Works said Hurricane Sandy had been a major demand in 2013. Other work included painting bike paths, repairs to wells and a pump station and a new roof on the garage. For 2014, he said, goals include a generator, upgrade of a pump station, two new hires and clearing the woods behind the library.
“My budget is based on supply and demand,” Maines said. “Pothole repairs came to $10,000 last year, but this year it was triple that.” The department has put down 15,000 gallons of brine and 2,100 tons of salt. He said, the supply is “still holding” because of limited use last year.
Michael Piano of the Electric Utility said his budget would be the same as last year. Landrigan asked about the federal government’s policy on FEMA funds, adding that “we have to prove what we’ve done to protect the community from another Sandy.” Piano said it was “a tricky hoop. You have to qualify every piece of equipment.”
Library Director Nancy Adamczyk shared a breakdown of the $1.5 million budget for 2014, with revenues and costs. She reviewed the library’s strategic priorities, which includes hiring a full-time technology assistant, to be shared with the Library of the Chathams. Implementing self checkout is another objective. Other goals include replacing the HVAC system, refreshing the courtyard area, upgrading the website and online offerings.
Fire Chief Louie DeRosa emphasized the importance of positive working relationships between the union and volunteers. Shared services with Chatham include building inspections. Verizon lines have been replaced with Rosenet fiber. “We’ll recoup our investment in five years. It’s rock solid,” he said of the change. Since he became chief in 2010, 19 volunteers have been recruited. “But the reality is there’s a net gain of five,” as some volunteers leave for other opportunities.
The department will continue to apply for grants and computerize maintenance records. “Keeping morale high” is key, said DeRosa, who said he basically needs help during the daytime, when volunteers aren’t always available. “That’s not reflected in the budget,” he said. He noted that the department responds to a myriad of emergencies, not just fighting fires. Those could include smoke alarms beeping, locating a bat in a church belfry, changing batteries for seniors and other demands.
Finally, Bob Vogel of the Engineering Department gave an overview of inspections, revenues and land use. Building permits were higher than ever before, he said.
The remainder of the meeting included approving ordinances for salaries, $1.6 million for road construction projects and amending fees for construction.
Brenda Catalanello gave a report on the Madison Athletic Foundation and the council approved the consent agenda.