MADISON, NJ – A presentation by Freeholder Hank Lyon at Monday night's Madison Borough Council meeting revealed that there would be no increase in Morris County taxes for the second consecutive year.
This news follows 15 years of increases in the county’s operating taxes. Debt is reduced by $8.3 million, with a planned reduction of $64 million in five years.
Lyon said there are 63 fewer budgeted positions. “We had six long-time staff retire with the county library and with more emphasis on computers, we can manage with part-time help,” he said. The county has saved $447,000 in that area. More operations are being outsourced, such as the golf courses and Morris View Nursing Home non-direct care. A major concern is potential funding reduction for managed Medicaid. He noted that changes in state aid are reflected in the number of patients at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital. Budget increases are due to state mandated funding for the disabled and mentally ill, offset by state revenue and grants.
But the county is doing more in the area of shared services, such as the Juvenile Dentition Center with Sussex and Warren counties and the medical examiner’s office.
Morris County provides 490,000 meals annually to senior citizens and allocates funds to the County College of Morris, School of Technology and the county park commission.
The 2014 capital budget focuses on roads and bridges, with $14.2 million allocated, as well as pot hole repairs. Councilwoman Carmela Vitale asked about curbs and sidewalks when county roads are resurfaced. “Our view is that sidewalks should be a municipality’s cost,” Lyon said. “Having the county take over would lose the character of the town.”
But Mayor Robert Conley said, “If you encourage people to walk, everyone benefits.”
Other council members expressed concerns about Central Avenue, where there has been flooding, and Park and Madison avenues, especially traffic issues.
Lyon said pension costs are a concern for the future “due to legislative inaction” but he sees potential savings from a self-insurance health plan.
In other business, Councilwoman Astri Baillie shared a balance sheet on the open space trust fund account. She said new trails are opening at the Madison Recreation Complex.
Several ordinances were introduced, including limited parking on Green Avenue at Woodland Road, purchases s for the police department, fire department and public works.
Councilman Robert Catalanello abstained from an ordinance to appropriate $450,000 to replace the HVAC system at the library. The council voted on 16 ordinances for hearing.
The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, in the Borough Hall.