MADISON, NJ – Despite a series of heated meetings, with residents making their voices heard for retaining the services of Borough Administrator Raymond Codey, the council still couldn’t rally around the 2012 proposed budget.
Mayor Robert Conley broke the tied 3-3 council vote in favor of the budget, with council members Jeannie Tsukamoto, Robert Catalanello and Donald Links opposed.
The tax levy increase of 2 percent will raise the municipal portion of property taxes by $66.15 for a house assessed at $409,433. A total tax picture for the year would be $11,380: with $6,959 for schools; $2,727 for municipal and $1,694 for county, based on a tax rate per $100 of assessment.
Tsukamoto noted several positive aspects: no reduction in services and funding for the police department, but said she was concerned about tax appeals.
“There were 90 new ones this year and some are still open from 2009, 2010 and 2011,” she said. “That could mean over $1 million in refunds and the borough would be responsible for the whole amount.” She cautioned that state aid is being reduced and health insurance is going up. “We’re doing too little to avoid more debt,” she said and voted no on the budget.
Finance Chairman Catalanello said the town could not rely on one-time cash cows and was concerned about “the crippling needs of infrastructure.” He also wants to rebuild the surplus. “We may need to make significant tax increases next year,” he said.
“The process gets better each year,” Conley said. “It’s far from perfect, but we have had a steep roller coaster season.”
City Administrator Codey said the borough has maintained its Triple A bond rating, meeting its pension obligations and its fiscal responsibilities. “It’s a good budget and deserves support, representing the best interests of the community,” he said.
In other business:
The council heard an update regarding the Madison Recreation Center donations, including a donor wall and fundraising raffle. John Agnew said 1,600 tickets were sold at $100 each, for a total of $160,000, in addition to corporate donations. Future sources of revenue including plaques and naming rights, such as the field house or goal post.
Betsy Uhlman of the Environmental Commission addressed the Sustainable Madison Advisory Committee ordinance. The ordinance will provide a basis for grant applications and establish continuity for appointments, according to Conley.
Uhlman said the theme of sustainability is People – Planet – Prosperity. Some projects are complicated, she said, and target such areas as energy efficiency, education and water conservation. Sustainable Madison is not a budget item, she said, but is heavily subsidized by the community. The council adopted the ordinance in a 5-1 vote, with Catalenello voting no, questioning the need for an ordinance.
The council approved the purchase of a utility vehicle at a cost of $20,000 and a matching grant of $31,000 from the Jacob Henry Perkins trust account for a senior citizen van. “The rider-ship has doubled this past year,” Councilwoman Carmela Vitale said of the current van that needs replacing.
An ordinance was introduced to amend the zoning at 10 Maple Ave. for residential housing. The property will be auctioned by the borough.