BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the June 6 Primary election, the Republican candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

The following answer is from Republican candidate Marc Faecher for Week 2.

Week 2 Question: The Township's tax split shows the Township's piece of the total tax levy is 17.64%, the School makes up 55.67%, County 25.15% and the Library 1.54%. 

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The 2017 Total Municipal Budget is $19,127,717 (according to documents supplied by Township CFO Mike Marceau), of which, $18,804,142 is fixed expenditures.This leaves $323,575, or 1.69%, of the total budget for variable spending.

What, if anything, would you cut or do to make a meaningful dent in the property bill to run the municipality? 

Having just completed my 2016 Tax Return and the Berkeley Heights budget, I understand exactly the tax burden we face. As Council President, I scrutinize every tax dollar—With a dislike of wasteful spending, prior to approving this year’s budget, I asked myself whether we could cut any additional costs or find innovative ways to raise revenue, while ensuring residents receive the services they deserve and expect.

At 17.64%, the municipal budget represents a small portion of our overall property tax payment. The majority goes towards our schools, Union County, and library. Our municipal budget has two components: the operating budget covering day-to-day costs and the capital budget including items having a useful life exceeding five years. Pursuant to the State 2010 Levy Cap Law, budget increases are capped at 2% with very limited exceptions like health care costs, increased debt service and capital expenditures.

The Council follows a strict zero-based budgeting process. All departments must justify each expenditure every year to the CFO, Business Administrator and Council. We ask challenging questions including whether or not alternative funding options exist or additional shared services opportunities are available. Most expenses are fixed including salaries that are covered by prescriptive collective bargaining agreements. Prior to 2011 there was no capital plan covering the purchase of new or the replacement of old equipment. A “kick the can down the road” philosophy had to stop. This Council has developed a formal Capital Plan that coordinates major purchases like fire engines and created a rotating road re-surfacing program which is now AHEAD of schedule. Our planned capital spending prevents exposure to unplanned “peaks and valleys” resulting in large tax increases in any given year.

“Cut Taxes” without a plan to preserve services is a slogan, not an action plan. Current shared service initiatives with other Boards and Municipalities (including IT, Municipal Court and equipment purchases/maintenance), coupled with creative approaches to increase revenue yields savings. Public/Private Partnerships raise funds for parks and downtown beautification. Volunteer Advisory Committees save consulting costs. Developments at Locust Avenue and the former Kings will increase ratables and reduce the tax levy. The new YMCA lease generates revenue and SAVED our Community Pool, keeping the YMCA in town with NO additional tax burden. Jeanne Kingsley and I will continue to strive to reduce costs, increase revenue, and KEEP services that impact us all; from our children to our Seniors. Thank you.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in the answer are the candidate's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the candidate.