We have said it many times, but it is worth emphasizing once again: our most valuable asset in Berkeley Heights is our people. We are fortunate to live in a community where generations have the opportunity to share in our programs and projects, coming together to enjoy the special place we all call home. Our challenge has been and continues to be the fact that we have limited resources to meet the needs of of so many. One of the most difficult jobs of the Town Council is establishing the operational budget and developing a capital improvement budget to meet these challenges. There is no doubt that as residents, we recognize many areas that could be improved, paying for those improvements is the challenge. Understanding that the taxpayer cannot bare that full burden is essential. This is why continuing and expanding our Public/Private partnerships and pursuing all County and State supplemental funding is so important. It also means constantly evaluating and assessing needs for our current budget process. Prioritizing is not an easy thing to do, but just as in our own family budgets, must be done. What is important, however, is to understand that if something cannot fit into our budget plan, might there be an alternative way to fund it? Finding, pursuing and obtaining such funding takes hard work. Peter Bavoso and Manuel Couto are prepared to take on this challenge.

As taxpayers and home owners ourselves, we know this firsthand. In our professional and personal lives we tackle the tough choices that most citizens face. We are prepared to be active, hands on Council representatives. We have in our community a vast array of committees, boards, and non-profit organizations that through their fundraising efforts supplement our services and programs everyday. We need to be sure that we support and assist them in those efforts. For anyone who has ever sat on a fundraising committee, you know that raising money is hard work. We are prepared for that work. Understanding how our Council can best assist is important. That includes establishing consistent relationships with community stakeholders. Critical among them is our Board of Education. Our planning process must include plans to address facilities and fields that are under their supervision but are also used by the community at large: gymnasiums, playing fields, meeting space, bike paths, and sidewalks. Working together, we can ascertain what projects might be funded jointly through state or county grants, or by working together with our non-profits. By collaborating in our planning process, we maximize our tax dollars and identify supplemental ones, joining in our efforts to pursue them. The old expression, “the right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing,” is absolutely true. When we are on the same page, we accomplish more. Having ongoing and consistent relationships empowers this process.

When we discuss the needs of our Senior citizens, such collaborations are essential with County programs and those provided by agencies and non-profits. By recognizing and identifying a Council representative who consistently meets with those groups and individuals, we maximize opportunities. The importance of having a venue for our Seniors to gather is paramount, not just for the Seniors themselves, but their family members who want to be sure that recreational and educational programs are available to enrich daily living. The Council’s recent partnership with the County to obtain assistance with bus transportation is such an example. Our goal is to also bring the free programs provided by Union County College for those over 65 to Berkeley Heights. Alerting and advising Seniors to nutrition information, home heating and home improvement grants, and safety programs are all priorities for the Bavoso and Couto team.

We believe by working TOGETHER we can accomplish many things. Through collaboration and partnerships, we maximize our tax dollars and find new funding sources to meet the needs of our citizens of all ages. Bavoso and Couto are looking FORWARD to working with others, and not “fighting” them. There is no “fight” when people have a common goal: doing what is in the best interest of our citizens and for our town. So much can be accomplished when we are in it together. It's what makes Berkeley Heights the special place that it is. We invite everyone to share in this effort by voting for Bavoso and Couto, Column B on November 8. Thank you for your support.