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Councilmen: Budget Goals Were Not Met

In response to release by Democratic candidates, they say they faced other challenges.

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Borough Councilmen Don Links and Rob Catalanello in response to one submitted by Democratic candidates Astri Baillie and Ben Wolkowitz, .

We voted for the introduction of the budget to advance the budget process. The decision was based on the agreement from the Mayor and Borough Administration that we would find adequate savings to accomplish our goals:

  • Keep taxes low
  • Reduce the reliance on spending down surplus to balance the budget
  • Eliminate the use of Fund Balance to balance the budget, and
  • Fulfill the residents’ desire not to combine the Borough Administrator positions and identify savings to fund this decision.

We voted against the final budget because these goals were not met. For details, please refer to Ms. Tsukamoto’s letter to the editor printed in the May 3, 2012, Madison Eagle.

From inception, residents were cautioned that this budget process would be arduous, and requests for residents’ input was communicated throughout. We have remained silent on several incidents that occurred during the budget process, however, based on the continued spread of misinformation and new allegations surrounding our handling of the budget, we have made the decision to share with the public a few of the challenges we faced.

Rather than "finding a common ground" and coming to a "consensus on the budget," a faction of the governing body forced a political agenda via innuendo, misinformation and fabrication of facts. Days prior to the final budget meeting, the Finance liaison’s preliminary budget recommendation was discarded and several others, crafted with no input from the Finance Committee, were submitted in its stead. Also with no Finance Committee input, the Mayor submitted an 11th hour budget, the timing of which ensured no input from or discussion with the Council. The Mayor then shared details of his budget, along with incomplete commentary on the Finance Committee’s original budget, with certain key members of the public. Councilwoman Carmela Vitale instigated the spread of rumors claiming that three fellow council members were planning to cut subsidy to the library. These rumors, propagated via email, quickly spread throughout the borough, as did the falsehood that the Republican majority had created a “hit list” of organizations, including the Madison Community House, targeted for cuts.  Obviously, no such list ever existed. Our goal was to follow NJ state law in funding the Community House. We strongly condemn this pattern of obfuscation; there is no justification for it under any circumstances. 

Prior to Ms. Baillie’s declaration of candidacy, Mr. Catalanello reached out to and met with her and others who publicly expressed concern about the budget, to solicit input. Ms. Baillie provided no input, ideas or opinion and merely stated that the Republicans held a majority and could do as they wished. 

We trust Madisonians will see through these claims of "playing politics with the budget" for what they are–an attempt to create scandal where there is none to direct attention away from our real financial issues. Let’s talk about open and transparent government–we are happy to compare our fiscal record to that of former Councilwoman Baillie. According to data provided by the borough CFO, during the years 2002-09, when Ms. Baillie was on council:

  • Municipal taxes increased 37 %
  • Debt load increased by $31,000,000 (including the purchase of 2 contaminated properties which still require remediation at substantial cost)
  • Over $9,000,000 in combined Municipal, Electric Utility, and Water Utility surplus was spent down
  • Against the advice of Borough Administrator and CFO, Madison entered into a disastrous 5 year fixed price electricity contract
  • The infrastructure (i.e., roads and sewer system) fell further into disrepair

We are now paying dearly for Ms. Baillie’s free spending ways. The angst we faced during the budget process is directly related to her past actions and those of Democrat majority councils. Perhaps if she had "asked the hard questions, explored the options" and "made the difficult choices," the true needs of Madison would have been met before those of party politics and special interests and we would not be confronted with the bleak fiscal picture we now face.

As we have done all year, we continue to ask Madison residents to become more active in our local government. Please communicate to the council your ideas on how to tackle our fiscal issues. Please continue to engage the governing body on issues you feel are important. Working together, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome.

Robert Catalanello
Donald Links

Larry Bruce May 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Ok, let's review. You either forgot or lied and said I failed to respond twice to some nameless question you put out there. I showed you where I did previously respond. No retraction on that from you. Once more re the attorney. First, I didn't ask the councilman him why he voted a certain way. I asked him about his explantion preceeding his anti-green-no vote. He wouldn't do so. After the meeting I asked the attorney for further clarification re the non-answer issue (because it made no sense to me). He told me what I posted above i.e. they can respond but don't have to. So yes, I'm not infering that Mr. C ducked the question, I'm saying it outright. With my real name. Re Astri's comment - you said you had something in "black and white" - I assumed you meant a video, mia culpa. I asked you if the "poor people" stuff was what you got out of the link your friend Davis supplied. You didn't respond. I refuted your continuing claim that I speak for anyone else. You didn't respond. I told you to take up any problems you have with Astri directly. You choose to do it by Anonymous babbling here instead - Your choice and good choice - she'd eat you for lunch anyway. It's amusing that you think you represent anybody with your continuing "we" usage. What district would that be? The one between Barry Goldwater and Atila The Hun?
Larry Bruce May 12, 2012 at 10:16 AM
Like it said above, deafening.
Larry Bruce May 13, 2012 at 10:28 AM
And one final deafening. Thanks for the concession, especially about the part where you lied about my non-response.
Barry Luce May 18, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Nice try for a default judgement. Who knew you were still posting a week after the thread vanished from the front page and email updates seemed to have ceased. Your continued dissembling on what happened at the BC meeting is pathetic. You implied (not inferred, that's what you wanted us to do - consult a dictionary if you're confused) that the councilman ducked the question with your "report" of what happened. Now, after FINALLY acknowledging that your conversation with the attorney took place AFTER the meeting (and that's assuming we believe the latest version of the Truth), you are still blaming him for not answering because he should have known what the attorney told you AFTER the meeting. Additionally, you continue to ignore the fact that he DID explain his position and vote during the meeting. Go back a LISTEN to the tape. Your attempt at a "gotcha" moment is a joke. As for the rest of your post, the community awaits Ms. Baillie's defense of her record. So far she's only given us the politician's standard non-response, "The highly partisan tone of Mr. Links’ statements and personal attacks are regrettable, and we feel have no place in Madison’s local political process." Translation - I can't defend my record so I'll attack my opponent for even bringing it up.
Larry Bruce May 18, 2012 at 09:56 PM
You start out with your usual level of nonsense - "... a week after". Looks like a response to your post of 2 days earlier to me. So what. Sticking with what I said originally (and every other time you bring it up) about the council meeting. Thanks for the English lesson, which is also irrelevant though because I did neither, I said it directly. With my real name. "... FINNALLY acknowledging ...". It doesn't matter when the conversation took place. The law did not go into effect when the attorney explained it to me. Maybe Mr. Catalanello knew the law and maybe he didn't. Who cares. Either way, as I said before, his actions were within the law/rules and that's that. For about the 10th time, I didn't ask him about his vote. If you think it was a joke then so what. Don't vote for me. Who are you tring to convince. Maybe Astri can give you a job as a translator in case she needs to decipher some Tea Talk.

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