Democratic Madison Borough Council candidates Maureen Byrne and Jeff Gertler sent the following statement about their support of the governing body's decision to borrow more than $1.2 million to pay for the artificial turf fields at the Madison Recreation Center. They say banking on a future electric utility "windfall" to pay for infrastructure projects is not financially prudent.
The borrowing was approved by a 4-2 vote in July. One of their opponents in the upcoming election, Republican Councilman Robert Catalanello, cast one of the "no" votes, saying the borough has available funds that could pay for the fields or should be committed to capital projects. Catalanello is running for re-election on a ticket with Board of Education Vice President Pat Rowe.
In a joint prepared statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council Maureen Byrne and Jeff Gertler express support for the Madison Borough Council’s decision to issue $1,263,000 in bonds for the borough’s share of the cost of the artificial turf fields at the Madison Recreation Center (MRC).
Byrne and Gertler stated, “We believe that council’s decision to bond the borough’s share of the cost of the fields was the prudent fiscal decision. With the borough’s current program for infrastructure investment, to deplete our fund balance, a primary source for capital, at this time would be irresponsible.
Our opponents have suggested that a projected future ‘windfall from the electric utility’ could be used to fund infrastructure projects that we all support. We believe that spending unrealized future income now is just not prudent. The full benefit of reduced cost of electricity to the borough will not be realized until 2015, approximately two years from now.”
Byrne added, “If we look back at the history of the funding for the fields, we find that past estimates have been consistently incorrect. Two years ago, predictions were that the project would be ‘completely paid off in three years.’ At the same time we were also told that the fields ‘would not cost Madison taxpayers a dime’ and as recently as last year, Republican candidates for council assured Madison voters that there would be no financial impact on Madison taxpayers from the fields.
Well, none of these financial projections were realized. And now, after two months of negotiation, the Madison Athletic Foundation (MAF) has committed to raising $900,000 and Board of Education has agreed to contribute $1 million from the expected sale of the Green Village Road property to help pay for the fields. That leaves the borough with $1.263 million to be paid for out of the Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.”
Byrne and Gertler stated, “If the council had accepted our opponents’ no-bonding position, the borough would have effectively eliminated its capital fund balance. The borough has made great strides these past two years in infrastructure maintenance and repair, but we still have many roads that need repair, sewers and water mains that need replacing, and the very real potential of having to spend as much as $3 million for needed improvements at the Madison-Chatham Joint Meeting sewage treatment plant. We cannot depend on optimistic projections of future income to address these very real needs.”
Gertler added, “This is a good time for bonding with interest rates still near their historical lows. With the anticipated ending of the Federal Reserve Bank’s program of bonds and other financial asset purchases called ‘Quantitative Easing’ later this year, interest rates will likely increase. If the electric utility’s ‘windfall’ isn’t achieved, if the MAF is unsuccessful in raising their $900,000 contribution, if the Green Village Road School sale isn’t consummated, or if the borough is faced with a major infrastructure failure or other unanticipated capital need, we would be faced with the necessity to bond at a much higher rate of interest. Those are a lot of ifs to take a chance on.”Byrne and Gertler concluded, “We applaud the borough’s decision to take the fiscally conservative and prudent course for funding the fields. It is taking fiscal responsibility for the future of Madison.”