UPDATE: Projects Under Scrutiny as Borough Seeks to Shore Up Surplus
Budget to be submitted to the state next month.
At the latest budget hearing Thursday night at Hartley Dodge Memorial, where department heads outnumbered residents, the Borough Council more or less set the figures for the final 2012 municipal budget.
The bottom line, according to Chief Financial Officer Robert Kalafut: A capital improvement fund of $1.365 million drawn down to zero, and a fund balance, or surplus, of $2.7 million.
Since a Standard & Poor’s analyst last week revised the outlook on Madison’s AAA credit rating from stable to negative, borough officials directed Kalafut to stabilize the fund balance.
“To protect Madison’s AAA rating, I want to reduce various fund transfers and stabilize the surplus at $3 million—pending the upcoming property revaluation,” he said.
In discussion of capital projects, repairs scheduled this year for Green Avenue have been cancelled.
Mayor Robert Conley said bids received for the project all exceeded the borough’s recommendations. He added Green Avenue is eligible for state funding, and that the borough should plan not to fix it this year. “In the long run we will have a partnership for funding,” he said.
Other budgeted funds for capital projects include $1.169 million for renovations to Hartley Dodge. But Borough Administrator Ray Codey told the hearing that contract claims involving the building’s heating and air contractor and architecture firm could be worth as much as $500,000 to the borough, although it is not expected to accrue until 2013.
Other budgeted capital spending includes:
- 465,000 for the North Street pump station;
- $332,000 for Phase II of Woodland Road repairs;
- $538,000 for repairs to Pine, Cedar, Rose and Beech streets;
- $250,000 for water mains at Academy and Division;
- $250,000 to improve underground electric systems.
Among items for individual departments, Police Chief John Trevena requested $40,000 to upgrade the borough’s in-car camera system. He said the 10-year old system has paid for itself “many times over,” especially in cases of claims against police.
Fire Chief Lou DeRosa asked for $11,000, for the purchase of replacement of protective turnout gear worn by firefighters.
Conditioning of the synthetic turf fields—required every 400 hours of use to maintain the warranty—could cost as much as $30,000 if outsourced to a contractor, said Public Works supervisor David Maines. The MRC committee is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting next week.
Sanitary service came in for extended discussion.
“The North Street pump station is the number one repair project in the entire borough,” Councilman Rob Catalanello said. “If we don’t get it done [this year] we’ll be swimming in feces.”
Newly-retained Borough Engineer Robert Vogel said he wasn’t sure there was enough money for repairs this year, which he estimated at $435,000, up from $250,000 in Kalafut’s budget.
“Fine, then we can have an outbreak of cholera,” said an exasperated Catalanello.
Other planned spending includes $1 million for the Water Utility’s installation of automated meters across the borough’s 5,000 buildings, and $1.135 million for automated meters for the Electric Utility.
Near the end of the meeting, Council President Jeannie Tsukamoto made a motion requesting a review of all municipal supervisors’ job responsibilities. She said this would give the Council a better idea of who is doing what work, and whether taxpayers “are getting the most bang for their buck.”
UPDATE: In an email to Patch, Tsukamoto explained, "Over 55% of our municipal budget goes toward employee-related expenses. In the past few years, we have been very successful in reducing the costs through hiring freeze, attrition and replacing fulltime with part-time employees in our departments. I believe we are now operating with bare-bone staffing level, if not less, in our departments. I now would like to look at our supervisory positions and find ways to consolidate. Perhaps we can find savings and put the savings towards staffing the departments."
The Council approved the motion by a vote of 4-1. Carmela Vitale voted against, arguing that the time wasn’t right for such an extensive review.
The state requires municipalities to submit an introductory budget document by March 9, or the next soonest meeting of the governing body, scheduled for March 12.