RED BANK, NJ: The Red Bank Finance Committee presented the 2020 borough operating budget last night conducted through an online ZOOM meeting.
The Finance Committee is chaired by councilman Michael Ballard and consists of councilmen Hazim Yassin and Ed Zipprich.
Ballard and Zipprich were the only committee members who participated on the presentation meeting. Both are up for re-election this year.
Peter O'Reilly, the borough’s Chief Financial Officer joined the meeting post-presentation and answered questions from the public.
Borough Administrator Ziad Shehady was inexplicably absent from the meeting, and was obviously expected to participate, leading Chairman Ballard to say, “My co-pilot, I don’t know where he is to help me walk through this.”
At one point in the presentation, Ballard focused on the development of a Master Plan. “I think it was 1992 that we’ve did a full-blown master plan. We’re spending money on a Redevelopment Agency that’s going to spot zone. Instead of spending $52k (on the Redevelopment Agency), we could spend the full $100k and do a complete Master Plan that covers the entire geography of Red Bank,” said Ballard, stating that this was his personal opinion.
A primary budget concern of Ballard’s was the (above) graphic that showed Boroughs Operations Funding Trend, saying, “I see some unhealthy trends for our taxpayers. The blue appropriations line is pretty much steady; no large increases, no large decreases.
The gray line is the amount raised by taxes and that line is slowly trending upward, closer and closer to the blue line.
The orange revenue line which is miscellaneous revenues through grants, court, parking, etc. That number is trending downward.
That gray line (amount raised by taxes), is going closer and closer to the overall appropriations, leaving our residents, our taxpayers, our businesses supplying more and more of their money for supporting appropriations and less and less coming from miscellaneous revenues.”
The meeting was opened up to the public and began with Red Bank resident Marybeth Maida asked several pointed questions:
Marybeth Maida: “I’m a little concerned as to why the Business Administrator (Ziad Shehady) isn’t there. Did he tell you where he is or why he didn’t show up?”
Where is the CFO and the other member (Hazim Yassin) of your finance committee? They decided not to come? It seems you’ve been left high and dry.” Ballard replied, “No. I don’t see (Yassin) or hear from (Shehady),” responded Ballard. “I’m trying to handle this the best I can.”
Continuing, Maida asked, “The budget that you presented is the budget that Z (Borough Business Administrator Ziad Shehady) finally came up with?” “Yes. This is the budget with a few amendments that were voted on at our last council meeting,” said Ballard.
Maida asked, “Are we to understand as residents that this Business Administrator has complete executive powers to accept and reject whatever it is that you the finance committee recommend and you, as our representatives, are completely powerless to push forth amendments that we think would save the town money?”
Ballard answered saying, “The full council has full say on what the budget looks like. Amendments were presented at the last council meeting, they weren’t these amendments, and the council voted to accept those amendments.”
“I don’t know if the rest of the council saw this (above) sheet. The mayor saw this, the Business Administrator saw this, I don’t know where the communication broke down. That’s the best I can tell you.”
“(The council) has the ability to bring in these (proposed) adjustments, other adjustments or no adjustments. (At tonight’s) Workshop meeting, I encourage everybody to attend and voice your opinion, said Ballard, wrapping up the meeting
To listen to the entire budget meeting, click HERE.
To listen to the start of the public comments, move the slide bar to 45 minutes, 40 seconds.
To read the 2020 Budget, amended as of 7/22/20, click HERE.
The council will hold a Workshop meeting tonight, 6:30pm where the 2020 budget is on the agenda. Registration is required. To participate on Zoom with either video/audio or audio only utilizing an internet-accessible device or by telephone, click HERE to register.
To read the Workshop agenda, click HERE.
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