MADISON, NJ – A strategic report on capital budgeting, as well as the 2015 capital budget introduction took place at Wednesday's Borough Council meeting.

Resident and former councilman Bruce Gelton provided an overview of capital budgeting as part of the Strategic Planning Committee. Galton reviewed what he referred to as “extraordinary long-term assets” as well as projections for 2015-2019 and then at five year increments beyond that. He said the total for capital assets comes to $375.2 million, including land, buildings, park improvements, parking lots, septic systems and utilities.  He noted that equipment and vehicles need to be evaluated, with a generator dating from 1965 and consideration of leasing versus buying borough vehicles. He recommended projecting capital needs on a rolling five year basis. His report includes a long range forecast and capital needs projections. The next step, Gelton said, would be to analyze each asset and to look at underutilized assets.

Councilman Patrick Rowe asked about sharing equipment with other communities and urged prioritizing to protect what’s most important.

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“This was not an easy project,” Councilwoman Carmela Vitale said. “These are guidelines for the budget process and could be a primer” for future council members.

Finance Chairman Ben Wolkowitz said the report will be available on Rosenet.org. Although there are a lot of figures, he encouraged people to read the 14-page introduction and summary. “It’s not just numbers,” he said. He added the intent of the report was not to figure out funding, but to provide information for the budget committee and to see where there’s an overlap.

Following Gelton’s report, Assistant Borough Administrator Jim Burnet gave an overview of the proposed capital improvement plans. He described it as a “circular decision “with input from departments and developing ordinances with the goal of a pragmatic approach. Sidewalk repairs were a major issue. Vitale said the sidewalks were “really bad in the Myrtle Avenue area.” She said some senior citizens had offered to do a survey of sidewalk conditions. Borough Engineer Bob Vogel said the summer staff had done an inventory of the borough's sidewalks.

The capital improvement plans, which will be available on Rosenet, include road reconstruction on Ridgedale Avenue; milling, overlay and roadwork on Danforth and other roads, stormwater drainage, building improvements, electric utility, water utility and a variety of other projects.  A series of budget meeting will be held during the coming months.
Wolkowitz introduced an ordinance regarding electric utility rebates. “We estimated about 1,000 users would qualify by income, but that benchmark was insufficient.”

He said the size of the family would make a difference. The department received 354 applications. Some were declined because of a misunderstanding of the criteria. Last year the council designated $100,000 to promote the program. This year, he said, $40,000 should be enough as more people are aware of it. “People are grateful for the program,” he said, although some people elected not to apply. The rebate can reduce a household electric bill by 10 percent. Some council members said that $50,000 or $60,000 should be set aside for the program.

The council also adopted a resolution opposing a Board of Freeholders proposal to ban grant funds for historic churches. According to the borough attorney, the proposal is likely to be withdrawn. But Mayor Robert Conley said, “I really believe the churches are an historic part of Madison. It’s good to remind the freeholders of that.”