Maintaining Affordability means: Controlling costs. Managing resources. Evaluating alternatives. Planning for contingencies. Comparing wants versus needs.
These are critical aspects for anyone responsible for running a business or a governmental unit, and it is within these areas that my experience will be an asset to the Township Council and the community.
For almost 30 years, I have had the responsibility of formulating budgets and then the responsibility of seeing that the cost of the operations funded by those budgets was kept in line. Any governmental entity, be it a municipality, a school district, or even larger units such as our state is expected to function within the constraints that exist, be they a specific cap or just what the public is willing to authorize. Governmental officials, whether elected or appointed, cannot be people that say yes to everything that is suggested to them.
As a school business administrator in three very different socio-economic communities, it was my job to develop an annual spending plan that allowed the districts to meet their core mission of providing a quality education to its pupils in a safe and secure environment. During my active career, every annual school budget was subject to approval by the voters. As time went on, the state further restricted how much money could be raised by instituting specific budget caps, regardless of what might be the wishes of the community. This often meant that things that might be desirable to have could not be included, because the law would not allow for it. The balancing act of allocating resources is essential to effectively function. I took pride in the fact that 19 of 21 budgets were approved.
After retirement, I was asked to take the position of School Business Administrator for the State of New Jersey's Morris County Office: monitoring the budgets and spending practices of some 40 different school districts, with the authority (in conjunction with the County Supt of Schools) to direct budget adjustments even budgets that were within the mandated budget cap. There were many instances when we had to tell them they could not include items because their overall costs were out of line with what the Department of Education had indicated were appropriate. However, there were instances when districts could justify their need to seek voter approval for additional spending that I advocated on their behalf with officials in Trenton. I was not someone who simply took the position of seeing what I could remove from a budget, but rather, someone who did his best to evaluate the true needs of what the specific district's pupils required. It is that philosophy that I would bring to the Berkeley Heights Township Council. Having worked and evaluated budgets much larger than what our municipal budget is, I have the capability to recommend adjustments whenever necessary.
Much of what is in a school or municipal budget is mandated or essentially non-negotiable. Costs for items such as Social Security, pension payments to the state, property and liability insurance, gas and electric, vehicle maintenance, required legal services, etc., are not options. Salaries paid to employees are also not optional. Our Town Council has and will always allocate funds for our volunteer Fire and Rescue Squads whose vital services are critical to our community. There are limited areas in the budget that we have the flexibility to decide where we want to put our resources, never forgetting that all of it, including what is absolutely mandated and essential, must not total more than the budget cap. Our goal, however, is not just being within cap. It must be providing what is necessary and trying to do that with the lowest cost possible. That can mean sharing services through our continued strong relationships with the BOE, County and neighboring towns, effective negotiations with our employees, shopping around for better deals be it in insurance, banking, property maintenance or procuring supplies and materials. I have many years of experience in doing all these things and would use that experience to work with our Township Administrator and Chief Financial Officer to get the best bang for our buck.
Experience matters and so does a proven track record. For more than 12 years, I was an active member of our town's Board of Education. I played a significant role in the annual budget development and presentation. For 10 years, I chaired the Finance Committee. We met with building principals and supervisors at meetings open to the public to scrutinize their requests. Our committee would then work diligently with the Superintendent and Business Administrator to prepare a basic draft for the full Board and then we would publically review it as well as listening to public input before presenting a final budget that would be sent to the County Superintendent. I am proud of what we achieved both in terms of what we have provided for our students as well as how we managed our costs. In two of the last five years where I was involved in the budget preparation, the school tax rate was actually reduced.
Experience matters and experience is what I can and will provide. I am not about making promises to do one thing or another without even the remote understanding of how those things are financed, not to mention advocating things that are not even within the power of the town government to decide. What I will promise is to carefully analyze the things that the Council has to consider, listen to what members of the public have to say, and then do what I think is best for the community. I am not here to advance any group's particular plan, but I will be on board with plans that I believe make our town better. I am someone who has been involved in local affairs for most of my years in Berkeley Heights. Along with my running mate, Jeanne Kingsley, we ask for your support in the general election on Tuesday, November 7th. Please vote Sincaglia and Kingsley, Column B, for Township Council.
Learn more at KingsleySincaglia2017.com
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