February 25, 2014 at 8:22 AM
MADISON, NJ – The municipal operating budget dominated discussion at Monday's Madison Council meeting.
Finance Chairman Ben Wolkowitz motioned that the 2014 budget adjustments be approved, seconded by Robert Landrigan. The council voted in favor in a 4-1 verdict.
Wolkowitz said there would be no municipal property tax increase this year, but cautioned that Morris County and the Board of Education could still introduce tax increases.
“Statistics and ratios are fine,” Councilman Landrigan said, “but this year we really listened to all the residents. They have asked for work to be done. I appreciate this budget and we were faced with hard facts.”
Landrigan emphasized the need for road work, as did Councilwoman Carmela Vitale. “The department heads and employees want to do the best they can for Madison,” she said. “I agree with Bob. It was a tremendous amount of work. I am not in favor of reducing capital improvements. They’re a necessity.”
Councilman Patrick Rowe said he was opposed to the budget because of the increase in health benefits and how projects are being funded through the capital improvement fund. He expressed particular concern about the electric surplus.
Wolkowitz proposed that $100,000 in savings be set aside to help senior citizens or disabled residents who are having difficulty paying their electric bills. “The time has more than come,” he said, “to distribute to this population.”
Assistant Borough Administrator James Burnet noted the positive news, that a surplus was generated through real estate property and a 99 percent tax collection. The addition of the Realogy office complex generated $400,000 as well as homeowners who were expanding their homes. He said these were not sustainable changes, but made a significant difference this year.
“We should not make draconian changes at this point,” Wolkowitz said. “During the last three years we’ve had significant capital expenses and they are now being funded properly.” He said the formation of the Strategic Planning Committee will have a favorable impact. Total revenues and appropriations for 2014 are listed at $29,425,538. The projection for 2015 is $29,808,712. Budget adjustments and details will be posted online. The budget will be introduced at the March 10 meeting.
Earlier in the evening, Mayor Robert Conley read a proclamation that March 3 is designated as Read Across America Day. Central School Librarian Gayle Stein accepted the proclamation.
A consent agenda was approved.