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 Thomas Foregger 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%.
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?
It is responsibility of the Council to set the budget goals and charge department managers with developing budgets to achieve these goals. I would advocate for a goal of no increase in total general appropriations. To accomplish this, the Council should do a thorough and careful review of operations for potential productivity increases and for savings on purchases, review no-bid contracts for potential cost savings, look for areas in which improved of use of technology could be economical, find additional grant money, and review staffing levels. The Council should budget closer to what is actually needed since each year we currently collect a large surplus only to roll it into the next year’s budget. Each bill list should be carefully reviewed before approval, and the value and cost of adding any additional personnel should be carefully evaluated. It is true that some expenditures are built in due to long term contracts, so reducing the budget may take more than one year.
I will ask the Council to distinguish between what is really needed and what would be nice to have. For example, the architect for the Municipal Complex was given a wish list by each department, leading to a very high budget estimate, but to my knowledge the Council never reviewed the requests to consider modifications, such as smaller office sizes. The result is a bloated budget for the Municipal Complex.
In the next few years we should see increased revenues from the several proposed development projects and the hotel tax from the Connell property. I will fight to have as much of these revenues as feasible applied to reducing the town’s debt rather than used as a reason to expand our budget.
As a Councilman I will do my best to help identify areas of cost savings and look out for the taxpayers’ interests. We need a Council that is prudent about spending taxpayers’ money and is willing to ask hard questions about what are necessary expenditures. Cost control and efficiency improvements together with the expected increase in rateables will automatically lead to a reduction in tax rates without cutting services. The result will be a Berkeley Heights that is both a desirable and an affordable place to live.
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