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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 05, 2012 at 11:12 AM
What a joke. I presume the people you have unjustly trashed above will respond for themselves. Just two obvious questions from me - 1) "A faction ...." ??? A faction of one? 2) Do you two have an equally ridiculous explanation for why you did the same thing last year?
Anonymous May 05, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Don't miss my comments on the bogus charge article that provoked the response (above) - http://madison.patch.com/articles/democratic-candidates-blast-no-budget-votes#comments_list
Anonymous May 05, 2012 at 09:23 PM
They noted the mayor AND one member of council. Two or more make a "faction." So nice try, but why not address the lack of "bipartisanship" of those two elected members? Leaking bogus info can only poison the process. You can't deny that many in town received chain emails stating that some members of council were trying to destroy the Library and Community House, and both of those groups turned out people to make sure their funding wasn't cut. Pretending that the Democrats haven't played dirty politics on this is hilarious. As for last year's vote, what's ridiculous about voting against a budget that for the sixth straight year spends more than it takes in? The US government can get away with it because they own the printing presses and can borrow us into oblivion, but local governments shouldn't be sucking their savings' accounts dry just because council and mayor won't make the "hard choices."
Larry Bruce May 06, 2012 at 10:40 AM
Hey Councilmen, does this gutless anonymous poster really represent your point of view? If so, aren't you embarrassed that you were defeated by a faction of two, one of whom is basically non-voting. And last year, the same thing by a faction on one?
Smile May 06, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Wait till the debt loop hole the state eft kicks into the property tax increase formula.
Smile May 06, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Municipalities are allowed to include debt (Hint new field) into the property tax as well as pension and healthcare.
Anonymous May 07, 2012 at 03:03 AM
That's already part of the exclusions to the 2% Cap. The initial submission by the administrators showed the potential for a 5% increase based on waivers that were available to the borough. The council, wisely, chose to stick to the real 2% Cap. Wonder what a Democratic council would have done?
Anonymous May 07, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Have you calculated how much the annual cost of debt service would be on the turf fields? And did you put up any resistance to the $30M in debt that the Dems took on during their reign? Luke Miller house, Livesey Kennels, Public Safety Building, Hartley Dodge Memorial, a fire truck, Bayley Ellard and the 50 acres that's now the MRC? It takes real chutzpah to run up as much debt as they did, and finally get "religion" about the cost of borrowing when it came time to fulfilling their promise to develop the 50 Acres into something useful.
Anonymous May 07, 2012 at 03:19 AM
More trash talk and no rebuttal of the Facts. LB SOP. Sadly, in America today, politicians (and their enablers) only want to take the easy way out and leave it to future councils or generations to make the difficult decisions. As long as there's any surplus left, or money that can be borrowed, elected officials will bow to pressure from people who don't care about anything but maintaining the people and programs they care about.
Larry Bruce May 07, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Don't know why you're answering a question posed to the issuers of the press release but I guess they already established their procedures for not answering questions. Anyway, the title of their composition is synonymous with "we failed" (2 years in a row) so no answer was expected. I will give you credit though, for pointing out that people only care about what they care about, very deep. Keep digging.
Ben Davis May 07, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Smile, are you seriously talking about the new fields in comparison to the insanity of the Reign of Baillie? How much was Livesey Kennels? 2 million? How many visitors have been there? How many Madisonians even know it exists, or where it is? Compare that to how many people use the MRC every day!! Imagine if we could take the money we spent on Livesey and Bayley Ellard (barely useable, no parking, contaminated nightmare!) and put that toward the MRC. Thank goodness Astri bought Bayley Ellard and kept the poor people out (see her quote about more affordable housing: http://newjerseyhills.com/madison_eagle/news/madison-moves-to-purchase-acres-from-diocese/article_7b7d8b61-00a9-5836-ad54-df4f87e5b5ef.html )
Larry Bruce May 08, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Just so everyone knows where "Mr. Davis" is coming from, below is his comment on a prior patch article about 3 guys from Newark being arrested for burgaries in Madison. "Looks like it didn't take long for Dick Codey to turn Madison into Essex County after all". When somebody called him out on it he didn't respond. Just like he didn't respond to me when I refuted some incorrect statement he made about me speaking for the Democratic Committee in the article about the police chief I believe. .
John Zimmerman May 09, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I just clicked on the link in Davis' post.....so Madison bought Bayley to avoid building affordable housing, and it turns out to be contaminated? Talk about karma.
Barry Luce May 09, 2012 at 10:24 PM
You want to talk about "not responsive," how about the TWO times I've asked you to comment on your fabricated version of what happened at a council meeting, which the video evidence clearly contradicted?? http://madison.patch.com/articles/madison-to-form-green-team#comments I also note that you sidestepped the whole Astri doesn't want more poor moving to Madison thing. It's documented in black and white. As the designated apologist/attack dog for the Madison Democrat Party we await your responses, or the deafening silence.
Larry Bruce May 09, 2012 at 11:47 PM
And how about the ONE time I answered you? - copied below. @BL - the attorney said (directly to me) that they didn't have to, but could respond. The Councilman chose not to respond. Fine. I use the word "respond" rather than "answer" because I learned at the meeting that the public can't ask questions but can only make comments. Seems like a strange rule to me but so be it. I'm sticking with my original comment. Just for my curiousity, you watched the "video evidence" and "Astri doesn't want more poor moving to Madison" is what you got out of it? Wow. Like I said several times, I don't speak for anyone but myself. You have issues with Astri , take them up with her but you'll have to use your real name. Who's the "we" in "we await a response"?
Barry Luce May 10, 2012 at 01:36 AM
You clearly are challenged when it comes to telling Patch readers (BTW, that's the "we" I am always referring to) the TRUTH. The borough's attorney CLEARLY told you that you can't ask a council member why they voted a certain way. Period. No, "he gave him the option to respond/answer but . . . ," leaving the reader to infer that the councilman "ducked" your question. The Astri comment obviously wasn't on the video, it referred to you dodging Mr. Davis's comment about buying BE so it couldn't be used for affordable housing. Nice try at pretending to be confused. It will also be interesting how Astri spins that deal. Will it be her "field solution for the children," or, "I was just saving the aquifer," or . . . ?? And in light of what we know now, this comment is even more tragic - "This is something that is ready to go at a deep discount," Codey said." When they subtract the remediation of the environmental issue for this property and the MRC, how much of the $1.4M of "savings" will be left? The next time the borough is looking to buy property ask them to drop me a line, I have a slightly used bridge with a wonderful view of the city I'd like to sell. And it's priced to move.
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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