Four years ago, I promised my fellow Verona residents that I would give everything I had to turn around what was a dysfunctional government agency, that I would dig in and solve problems, and that we would treat Verona residents with fairness, respect, and openness.
In just four years we have made immense progress. Our local government was rebuilt from the ground up with new leadership, accountability, and modern business principles. Our main focuses became efficiency and cost controls. We have worked hard to welcome citizen input and provide the public with the information they require to stay abreast of current issues.
Also during this time, we accomplished a lot of our goals, including:
- Upgraded technology including complete replacement of our obsolete police radio system
- Major remodeling of our historic Carnegie Library and the addition of an elevator for handicapped access
- Reducing the annual budget deficit from $900,000 to $250,000; we also anticipate a balanced budget for 2019
- Major overtime cost reductions across all departments
- New contracts with both our employee unions including scheduling flexibility for the township and future cost savings on benefits
- A Steep Slope Ordinance to protect Verona’s hillsides from overdevelopment
- Successful redevelopment of the Annin Flag complex, turning a closed-down factory and vacant buildings into attractive new residences
- New economic development initiative for downtown Verona aimed at reducing the number of retail vacancies
I have a few priorities I would like to see accomplished. First, we have been generous with providing long-term tax abatements to large developments in this community and it is time we help the single-family homeowner as well. In 2016, I proposed a short-term tax abatement for improvements to existing buildings that would provide a five-year phase-in of increased assessments, to reduce the sticker shock that might result from a remodel or expansion of a single family home or small commercial building. We chose to table it at the time due to the impending revaluation which would reset all of the assessments and render it moot; however I think it is time to proceed with this program and let our homeowners know that we appreciate them investing in the community and improving their properties.
Secondly, and in terms of the environment, I have been passionate about protecting the environment during my term in office and will continue to do so. Numerous storms have affected our community; causing flooding of small streams and the Peckman River, in some cases causing heartbreaking damage to homes in Verona. It is important that we realize this increasing threat and act to protect ourselves. We have the ability to require stricter storm water management standards than the existing state regulations and should consider doing so.
In particular, I am concerned about the underground retention or water quality treatment structures that are becoming commonplace in larger buildings to allow them to meet standards. Those devices have a maintenance requirement, and I want to ensure that in the long term the owners do not let that slide. I think it is reasonable to add a reporting requirement for annual maintenance on those devices so the Township Engineer may confirm their performance. We will incur some legal and consulting engineering costs to develop such an ordinance but ongoing compliance review can be handled by our Engineering Manager, who is an employee of the township. I do not expect costs to stand in the way but want to be reasonable in what we require of property owners so finding an appropriate balance of regulation versus freedom to develop will be the primary challenge.
Finally, I would like to push for the creation of an Open Space Trust fund to allow the township to purchase parcels of land and protect them from development. We have agreed to put this on the ballot so that voters may choose whether or not there should be a special tax for this purpose. It is up to us as public officials to communicate with them and let them know why we think this is a good idea, then we must create a proper organizational structure to establish a committee to oversee the trust and allow for land purchases to take place. This is an essential step to ensure that our community retains its suburban charm and does not get overdeveloped.
I look forward to the potential opportunity to serve another four years and hope the voters will support these legislative initiatives appreciate your support!