RED BANK, NJ: Mayor Pat Menna opened the online council meeting with all members present.

The 2 ½ hour meeting focused primarily on the budget that included an unexpected 15-minute PowerPoint presentation by Business Administrator Ziad “Z” Shehady.   

“This is the first I’m seeing it,” said Councilman Michael Ballard, Chairman of the Finance Committee.  Democrat Ballard is seeking his second term in the November election.  See the carousel of slides that show the impact on revenues that the pandemic has had on the budget.  “Some of these numbers may be subject to change, but a final version will be presented,” said Shehady.

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A contentious debate arose between Ballard and Shehady over raising the “cap bank” by 1% exceeding the 2.5% budget cap mandated by the state.  The budget would increase by an estimated $629,000.  Shehady said this would a used as a “rainy day fund” for unexpected expenditures, and, “…could be banked for up to two years.”  Mayor Menna added, “It doesn’t mean you’re exceeding (the 2.5% cap) but it does give you the ability to do that.”

Not on the agenda were three resolutions and the council voted on “B.”pdf

The savings amount to $53,227.  Councilmen Ballard and Ed Zipprich voted “No.”  Zipprich is also up for election this year.

The 2019 budget was $13.45 million and the 2020 budget calls for a 5.3% increase raising the figure to $14.17 million.  “I think residents and taxpayers deserve a full hearing and need to be heard.  It’s late in the game and we’re being forced to make this move, and I don’t think thats fair.” said Ballard

A workshop session is scheduled for Wednesday August 5 and the budget is expected to be voted on by the council on August 19.

Several members of the public called in to express their views, and most vehement was Marybeth Maida, who took aim at the council and especially Business Administrator Shehady saying, “…he attacks the free press, private citizens who question his authority, and asserts a bunch of nonsense about fake news.”    

Referring to an email that Maida had privately circulated and a subsequent phone call from Shehady, “He demanded to know where I got my information.  He said such awful things about Councilman Ballard, that as soon as I hung up, I called Borough Hall because I wanted to file a Human Resources complaint, and that’s when I found out that we don’t have a HR manager in Red Bank.  Z fired her apparently, and took over her duties.  I believe that the council should rescind the ordinance giving Z unlimited power, and it should happen immediately.”

To listen to Maida’s riveting remarks, click HERE

Other public comments included:

Tom Wieczerzak, “All of you have the responsibility to bring forward a transparent and fair budget.   Councilman Ballard, I hope you bring all of those cuts forward, …, we need to prepare for the worst here.”

Scott Brochard, “I’m disappointed that you have the audacity to consider such a large tax increase this year.  The borough council has lost touch with the people of Red Bank.  Watching tonight, I see the disfunction in full force.  It’s been two years since that borough management report came out and the first recommendation was to explore the changing the form of government for Red Bank.”  Brochard said he was re-launching a campaign, to convert Red Bank to a non-partisan town started collecting signatures on a website, www.redbankfirst.com.

Suzanne Viscomi, “It’s the publics duty and right to ask questions, and it’s also the responsibility to get answers not just from Z but from all of you, publicly and on the record.”

To listen to the public comments, click HERE, and scroll to the 1 hour, 17 minutes of the meeting.

To review a copy of the budget, click HERE.

In other business, the council approved several resolutions; the Red Bank RiverCenter budget in the amount of $564,97, an application to apply for $200,000 to the Monmouth County Community Development Block Grant Program for the Rehabilitation Montgomery Terrace Project, voting in favor in the Support of The Medicare For All Act, and allowing public access via an easement adjacent to the Riverview Towers apartment building, 28 Riverside Avenue.  Restaurants are getting a break with the council eliminating some fees they pay based on the square footage of their establishment.

The council approved a request from the restaurant 26 West On The Navesink that Boat Club Court between W. Front Street and Ice Boat Lane be allowed to close for outdoor dining service Monday-Saturday from 3:00pm until 11:00pm and Sunday from 1:00pm until 9:00pm.

To read the full agenda, click HERE

To watch the video of the entire meeting, click HERE.

The next Workshop meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 5.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 19.

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