Madison's 2014 Municipal Budget Approved on 4-2 Vote: Municipal Taxes to Go Down 1.32%

Mayor Robert Conley presents proclamation to Drew University student Caroline O'Leary for sexual assault awareness and prevention. Credits: Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ - The Madison Borough Council adopted the 2014 budget and tax resolution at its Friday meeting.  Under the 2014 budget, municipal taxes will be reduced 1.32 percent.

The vote was 4-2, with Councilmen Robert Catalanello and Patrick Rowe casting the nay votes.  

Although Rowe thanked the finance team, he said, “I’m not in favor of this budget. It’s not the right balance between taxpayers and utilities.” He said Madison residents pay the second highest electric rate in New Jersey. “We’re not building a sustainable model for the future,” he said.  

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Finance Chairman Ben Wolkwoitz said Madison was the fourth highest for municipalities that have their own electric utility. But he said infrastructure improvements were long overdue and this was the third year of a fiscal turnaround. “We’re on the right track,” he said.

The budget allocated $3.5 million in capital improvements. “This is the only council that reduced taxes and is criticized for it,” he said in response to Rowe and Catalanello.  The borough has $5.5 million in surplus, he said, counteracting the argument that the borough is spending money it doesn’t have.

Catalanello said he didn’t think it was fair to ask young families that are struggling financially to subsidize older residents with a break in the electric utility. “I would love to vote yes for this budget, but I’m not comfortable using the utility surplus to fund fixed costs. It’s time to be truly transparent. The increased reliance on this revenue stream is not in the best long term interest of the residents.”

Councilman Robert Landrigan said a major concern of residents was the condition of roads, both for safety and damage to cars. “Work needs to be done and it’s time to get started,” he said. “We’re finally on the right track. We should do the work now.” He noted you need to “pick your priorities” and would vote yes for the budget.’

Astri Baillie said she supports the budget and thanked Wolkwoitz, Landrigan and the administration for their hard work.

Councilwoman Carmela Vitale said, “I’ll keep this simple and straightforward. I would like to say to the people of Madison that there will be no tax increase this year and we can help some people with electric bills. I will support this very, very strongly.”

The municipal taxes will drop 1.32 percent, or $35.39 for the average home, valued at $667,218. An additional $2.5 million is allocated for capital improvements, such as roads. Municipal services will be maintained at their current levels.

A chart distributed at the meeting showed that Madison’s per person municipal tax, at $796, is lower than the Chathams, Morris Township, Florham Park or Harding. Madison also offers more services without extra cost.

In other business, the council approved open space funds for walking-hiking trails at the Madison Recreation Center and adopted an ordinance for redevelopment plans at 39 Green Village Road.

Councilwoman Vitale commented on the ‘Every 15 Minutes’ program hosted by the Madison Police Department at Madison High School.  It is held every other year and Vitale said the results have shown a decrease in teen driving accidents.  “It was totally awesome,” she said. “They re-enacted an accident of teen drinking, with ambulance, fire department, police and Morristown Medical Center.” A helicopter and the court system were also involved. Filming was done by Fairleigh Dickinson University. “It was a very emotional two days,” she said.

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