Democratic candidate for Mayor, Bob Conley declares that “it’s time to bring our fiscal house back in order.” If elected, Conley states that restoring fiscal planning, discipline and responsibility in Borough Government will be his highest priority. Conley explains that:
“In these difficult economic times, Madison government is going to be forced to make some very hard decisions regarding spending priorities. Consequently, we are going to have to do a much better job of managing our finances. We are running out of the money we need to maintain our roads and sewers. The Borough government is already cutting back on vital services like garbage collection and its support for our Library. The elimination of fall leaf pickups has even been discussed. One member of the current Council majority even proposed that members of the Madison Community Pool be assessed for repaving the pool’s parking lot – a repaving project necessitated by the dumping of winter snow on the lot by the Borough’s Department of Public Works!
While all of this is happening, the Borough government under Mayor Holden’s leadership ignores opportunities for state funding of road repairs and is borrowing $3.4 million for new turf fields. (We have no idea what the recently announced field house will add to cost of the project.) A quick computation shows that the interest on the $3.4M is just about equal the cost of the electric subsidy for the Library that the Republican majority wants to eliminate and is also several times what is required to complete the current asbestos remediation project at the library. Funding for which was recently authorized by the Borough Council but which has been the source of recent heated debate between library supporters in the community and Republicans on the Council.
Madison residents were originally told that the Madison Board of Education would contribute $1M toward the development of the recently acquired 49 acres and that the proposed Madison Recreation Complex (MRC) development would conform to a master plan that would be developed for the entire property. Now we know that there is no commitment from the BoE and that the MRC development is proceeding without a master plan.
The Mayor and project supporters on Council claim that there will be no impact from the turf field project on the Borough taxpayers, as funding will come from a combination of user fees, and private sponsorships and donations. In a public statement, a member of Council even ‘guaranteed’ that Madison taxpayers will not have to fund the project.
Typically for a project like this, the funding organization – in this case the Madison Athletic Foundation (MAF) – would have something like 80% of the funding pledged or in hand before construction begins. For the case of the MRC development, we have no evidence that any significant amount of contribution or sponsorship money has been raised. Do not be fooled, this project is going to impact Madison taxpayers. It is going to be paid for with taxpayer dollars. Dollars we do not have.
Madison maintains its infrastructure of roads, sewers, and its water and electric utilities with its Capital Budget. From 2002 to 2010 the Borough’s year-end Capital Budget balance has gone from about $15 million to about $4 million. There are a number of reasons for this, some avoidable and some not. Even with the planned 2012 transfer of $2.5 million from the General Fund Balance to the Capital Budget, the General Capital Budget that funds all of our road reconstruction and storm water and sanitary sewer projects and all police and fire equipment and vehicle maintenance, is on a trajectory to go negative in 2013. That means that we will be out of money! And so our streets and sewers will continue to deteriorate and there will be no money in the budget to fix them.
Yet just recently, the Republican majority chose not to defer a $500,000 road reconstruction project to 2012 when the Borough would have the opportunity to apply for state matching funds to pay for up to half the cost of the project. The explanation was that ‘we need the project now.’ And yet we now learn that the project most likely won’t happen in 2011 anyway because it is too late in the year to start it. So, construction would be deferred to 2012, and Madison will be paying the full $500,000 in cost.
We need a far more disciplined approach to capital budgeting than the current Republican Mayor and Council majority seem willing to conform to. Council must create a long-range capital plan that Madison can afford and then it must stick to it. It must continue to fund the capital budget and it must also look to maximizing opportunities for matching grants from the state and other funding sources. It is well past time for a disciplined ‘pay as you go’ program. As your Mayor, I pledge that I and my partner candidates for Council, Bob McDowell and Carmela Vitale, will work to put our fiscal house back in order. We will not mortgage our future. We will not spend money we do not have.”