You golfers will love this one. Winter rules are obviously in for this election cycle in Berkeley Heights. Our incumbent Council members Perna and Bruno must have very low golf scores because they move the little white ball around quite easily to improve their lie and hardly anyone sees them. The rest of us must not be playing for money and/or are not paying attention.

Let's play 9 holes of golf now:

1. On May 20 they voted to amend the budget for 2008 to increase the "inside Expenditure Cap" from 2.5% to 3.5 %. They agreed with the rest of the Council and the Bonacci sub-committee. That increased the spending limit by $123,000. Then they moved the ball a little to improve their lie and started to shout about costs being too high.

2. They voted also on May 20 to introduce the budget with this amendment and agreed with the entire Council and the Budget Committee. Then they moved the ball a little to improve their lie and voted against the resulting "no tax increase" budget they just introduced.

3. At the June 26 meeting, cuts were made of $29,000. They wanted to improve their lie a little. So they moved the ball a little to improve their lie and voted against adopting the budget anyway on July 8, 2008. Maybe they didn't figure their handicap correctly.

4. At the May 13 special budget meeting they fought like golfers do to get on the green by shouting until Dr. Bonacci increased the stipend for Captain Moran to $4000. The ball moved from $1000 to $4000 as the sub-committee gave in. I guess this 300% increase was OK for Mr. Bruno.

5. On October 7 and October 21 when Dr. Bonacci pointed out that the Mayor had issued an executive order authorizing 10% over budget for one of his secretaries, they said nothing while they marked their scorecard quietly. They were silent as the Mayor authorized another increase of 25% over the budget for an assistant to Captain Moran, the highest paid policeman we have. As long as their ball gets closer to the green, moving the ball to improve their lie doesn't seem to matter.

6. At the October 21 Council meeting, one of the residents questioned the basis for stipends and how they integrate with the salaries and job descriptions. Councilwoman Perna sharply responded specifically about one secretary and one stipend and how needed that was. I don't think the question was about any specific person. Mrs. Perna was on a different fairway and defended the one the Mayor gave a 10% over budget executive order for.

7. At the May 13 special budget meeting previously mentioned, Dr. Bonacci presented a six column spreadsheet with the budget as it was unfolding for 2008 and with a base case and three scenarios for minor adjustments. He had a second to last column fourth scenario to illustrate possible impacts of borrowing money, say $10 to $15 million in bonds, listing the annual debt service that could incur if the Council should do it wrong. You could get stuck with an 18% tax increase. 4% allowed by the property tax levy and 14% allowed by Public Law 62 as debt service above the property tax cap. He said of course we would not want that to happen. He showed the last column and scenario as one smart way to reduce that number back to 8% and commented that even more smart financial management could reduce the hit in a given year.

On July 8 at the PowerPoint presentation Dr. Bonacci showed on a chart pack how one could adjust the annual bond Principle and Interest by spreading out the borrowing if the project construction schedule permits. I guess the taxpayers are not allowed to move the ball to benefit their score.

8. At the October 21 Town Council meeting, Councilman Bonacci commented that the adopted budget preserved $750,000 of taxpayers money. $350,000 was left in surplus from last year's tax and $400,000 was left in the taxpayers' pockets since the budget was passed at 0% increase well below the 4% allowed. He also commented as a reminder to residents that the 2008 budget was only $133,000 more than last year or less than 1%. So there is no $800,000 over expenditure. Only Perna and Bruno want to improve their lie by by moving the little white ball into an $800,000 sand trap that doesn't exist.

9. Now we get to the best improvement of the lie of all because the little white ball is not being shown for the next 30 years by Perna and Bruno. You see folks when you borrow about $10 million you have to pay back the interest every year for the 30-year life of the bond. So each and every year the estimated Principle and Interest of about $800,000 has to be paid (by debt service called taxes of course). It has absolutely nothing to do with your golf score in 2008 because the money was not borrowed in 2008. The clock starts when you borrow the money.

The only way you could have gotten some of it ahead of time was to save it in earlier years with taxes in those years. By the way, why didn't Perna and Bruno set aside $800,000 in 2007 when Mayor Cohen planned the bundled $10 million bond. I mean they could have at least saved the $500,000 down payment waiver they are so proud of instead of stupidly paying 2 or 3 times the $500,000 down payment over the next 30 years to the bankers and lenders. They were in the majority and controlled the Council in 2007.

Well folks, that's nine holes and the golf game is nearly over now. November 4 is very close. If they win this election you can only guess what their handicap (oops, the residents' handicap) will be for the next 3 years of golfing with this dynamic duo. We will have winter rules all the time and improvement of the lie on every hole (meeting!). Maybe we can get the County to surround Stanford Park with a few golf holes so they can move the little white ball around?

Editor's Note:  Councilman Bonacci has endorsed Alexandra Chirinos and Charles Hasz, candidates for Township Council for the election to be held on November 4th, who are running against Councilman Bruno and Councilwoman Perna.