MADISON, NJ – Following an intense meeting regarding a welcoming community resolution, the council moved on to hear about the 2017 municipal budget.

After an overview of the electric utility department, Finance Officer Jim Burnet said that other departments would present their budgets at the Feb. 13 meeting. He said all the budget information is available on Rosenet. The areas the council should be concerned with, he said, are Capital, Spending, Taxes, Electric Utility and Surplus. The general capital plan is not tied to utilities, he said.

He asked Borough Engineer Robert Vogel to describe the water utility work on Central Avenue. Vogel said this is a county road and that the borough needs to partner with the county and work with their schedule. The scope of the work would be between Fairview and Ridgedale but could be extended to Walnut Street. He noted that four inch pipes are being replaced by six inch. There will be an effort to have the work done when school is not in session. In addition, many of the fire hydrants are old and dated, he said.

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Burnet said there are some systemic issues. “The water utility is not as sustainable as it should be,” he said. But he added one solution is through property taxes. “New home construction absorbs any increase in property taxes,” he said. While taxes are up 3%, the new construction picks up the difference. “We’re looking at taxes in a different way,” Burnet said.  He added having the utility keeps the property tax lower than many surrounding communities. Burnet said that state aid has not changed since 2010.

He also observed of the budget that some employee expenses are lower, for instance, by contracting out the Board of Health.

The free balance “protects you if something happens” and can be used for emergency appropriations.  He said that 2016 had been “an excellent year,” generating a surplus in the electric utility.  He proposed that electric customers be reimbursed over a 12 month period, from April1, 2017 until March 31, 2018.

Burnet asked the council to approve a reserve for tax appeals. He said that an appeal often happens after revaluation and currently two major properties have been contesting their taxes over multiple years.  By transferring $200,000 in municipal surplus there would be a buffer. The council voted in favor of the reserve.

Burnet spoke briefly of 2018 challenges and noted there is “a wealth of information on Rosenet” that is accessible to the public.