MADISON, NJ – Borough residents will see 1.5 percent tax increase, pending the hearing for the 2016 municipal budget on April 11.
The budget was introduced at the Monday council meeting. Finance Chairman Robert Landrigan thanked Chief Financial Officer Jim Burnet, who he said “took over the reins this year. It’s never been more transparent, more on the mark.” He recognized Burnet’s hard work, as well as that of department heads, who, he said, “kept spending in line.” He also commended the strategic planning committees for setting guidelines. Although the municipal tax increase is small, Landrigan said he didn’t know what the Board of Education would add to property taxes.
“There are no changes in services,” he said, including leaf pickup and garbage pickup. Road and infrastructure improvements are scheduled, which he said are major undertakings. The municipality has paid down the debt service for the MRC complex and the councilman praised the borough’s Triple A credit rating, “Borrowing is borrowing, but we can do so at less interest. We’re in a very strong position.” His comments were met with applause from the public. The council vote was 4-1, with Councilman Patrick Rowe casting a no vote.
Councilman Ben Wolkowitz said the council needs to move away from budget decisions and to have serious discussions about municipal finances four to five years out. He also noted the increased capital funding of 43%, reserved for municipal, water and electric utilities.
The council approved a CAP bank ordinance that would allow 3.5% over the previous year’s final appropriations. “This is the longest section of budget law,” CFO Burnet said. The CAP bank appropriates for two year spending. The levy is the revenue side, he said, while the appropriations are the spending side. “It’s a complex law and ordinance,” he said of the rolling CAP. Mayor Robert Conley said the CAP gives flexibility. The increase of 3.5% amounts to $646, 273 for the 2016 municipal budget.
In another agenda item, the council appropriated $125,000 from the Open Space Trust Fund for repairs at the James Library in the Early Trades and Crafts Building. Executive Director Deborah Farrer Starker explained the ongoing work on the Romanesque Revival structure, built in 1899. It is on both the state and national Register of Historic Places. The seven-year, $375,000 project is being completed in phases. It includes repairing water damage to bricks and mortar, replacing gutters, flashing and calking, rotting rafters, roof repairs and other issues.
The council also adopted an ordinance to limit parking on Belmont Avenue and Washington Drive to four hours on weekdays, Monday through Friday.