MADISON, NJ – The preliminary municipal budget for 2015 was the focus of  Monday's Madison Borough Council meeting.

“This is a work in progress,” Councilman Robert Landrigan said of the draft. It calls for a 1.5 percent increase in the municipal tax rate, with attention to the guideliens presented by the Strategic Planning Committees. Landrigan also pointed out that it provides funding for the electric rebate program, resulting in a 10.89 percent reduction in electric bills of those eligible in 2014.

The budget projects investing $3 million in the capital budget for roads and utility infrastructure. Last year, $1.8 million of the capital budget was funded by the sale of borough property and fund balance. “We have neither this year and yet are still able to budget $3 million to a capital program, thanks to our electric surplus,” he said.

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The next budget meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, which will include a utility discussion and the five-year capital plan. Landrigan urged resident to participate and share their comments and suggestions. The final budget review will be at the regular council meeting on Monday, Feb. 23, with the budget introduction on March 9.
The council meeting included budget requests and reports from the police department, the fire department, public works, community services and the health department.

Police Chief Darren Dachisen said the Neighborhood Watch Program makes Madison a safer place and a number of block captains have already been lined up. Shared services are in place with Florham Park, East Hanover and Chatham Township. Overtime will be reduced from $260,000 to $220,000, he said, through an investment in personnel and restricting the work load. He noted that a Chevrolet replacement was needed, as vehicles are used 24/7, 365 days a year. An aging recording system was also requested.

Fire Chief Louis DeRosa said volunteers are needed. He has sent letters, advertised, and participates in Madison High School Career Day. The department received a grant from FEMA and will apply for more grants. “Training is important,” DeRosa said. “It keeps the morale high.” He has requested $10,000. “We need help. There are no volunteers around.”  Engines need replacing every 10 years, DeRosa said. “The recue truck is due. It’s older and replacement parts are harder to get.”

Public Works Superintendent David Maines said his department, too, needs people. Training is essential, he said, for those working in the sewer department and water department.  “You can’t go down there without training,” Maines said of the work involved and that three men are not enough. More pumps are needed for the pump stations as well as a new pickup truck. Use of a hot mix machine will cut down on trips to the quarry, he said.

Borough Engineer Bob Vogel covered engineering, planning, zoning and building operations. Shared services with Chatham Borough are working out well. Vogel said software to integrate both towns would make for a seamless operations, especially with the permit status. He said the department gets constant phone calls about permits and having that information available on the website would alleviate that.

Lisa Gulla, health officer, said she expects three retirements this year, but has a transition plan in place. There are also contractual obligations with Chatham Borough, Chatham Township and Springfield.

Earlier in the evening, five police officers were sworn in: Julian A. Morales, Joseph Dirocco, Kevin Marhefka, Spiro Milonas and Patrick Strafaci.

An ordinance amendment was introduced to limit parking on Oak Court. “It’s a narrow road and there are problems with on street parking and busses,” Vogel said. The plan is to restrict parking on one side of the street, with signs and yellow striping. “We need the cooperation of Morris Township,” he said. A copy of the amendment will be sent to the township before the hearing.