BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the November 5 election, the 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 Democratic Township Council Candidate Rina Franchino for Week 2.
Residents are concerned about rising taxes in Berkeley Heights. The tax bill is made up of numbers from the County, School and Township. The Township's portion of the tax bill is the smallest. Many costs are out of the Council's control with the rising cost of services and employee benefits. However, tax payers want to know how you will control the budget while maintaining and improving infrastructure issues and services and preparing for the future. Please explain your plan.
Julie Figlar and I realize how important it is to make every dollar count – we do it every day as working parents with children to raise. That’s why we support the fiscally responsible policies launched by Mayor Angie Devanney and her administration in 2019. Shared service agreements with Union County, such as sharing the use of our salt dome, will generate $1 million over the next 20 years, and having the same Public Works director, has saved taxpayers $70,000 while greatly improving the speed in which our DPW is getting things done.
These shared service agreements are working. When I’ve gone door to door, I’ve heard many residents tell me that they’re glad to see how many more roads and catch basins are being fixed - and they’re right. Streets are being swept, trees are being trimmed with the help of Union County, and more recycling services are being offered. If elected, I want to take the lead on examining opportunities for shared services in other areas, such as agreements to share the use of our wastewater treatment plant. If agreements like these benefit our taxpayers while also making local government more efficient and effective, we should continue to examine possibilities like these.
Going forward, the Economic Development Committee that was recently created will enable Berkeley Heights to develop long-term, responsible growth in our downtown and the wider business community. Every dollar raised through commercial ratables is a dollar homeowners don’t have to pay in property taxes, and smart investments in areas like our wastewater treatment plant can lead to increased revenue.
In addition, we need to hold developers accountable. Going forward, Julie and I will fight to include penalty clauses in any agreements on future redevelopment projects, fining developers if they don’t keep to their side of the agreements and build within the timetable agreed to in the redevelopment agreement.
While the Mayor and Township Council have control over only a small portion (18%) of our property tax bill, it still means we have the obligation to responsibly manage that portion. Julie Figlar and I will join the team of leaders that has been doing just that in 2019 and will continue to do that in the years to come. It’s why we ask for your vote for Berkeley Heights Township Council on November 5th.