Berkeley Heights State of the Township Address
Mayor Bruno declares township is sound despite challenges.
Today I am here to announce that the State of the Township of is in sound condition, although not without challenges and opportunities. Fiscally we have come through 2012 in good shape in spite of the challenges of a 2% spending cap and another 100 year storm in the likeness of Hurricane Sandy. This year’s storm took its toll in damaging property, injuring some of our residents, and unfortunately one storm related death. We paid for our storm clean- up again by transferring money out of accounts that had not spent it as yet. This marks the third major storm in two years. Although not budgeted for, it did not cost the taxpayers more as the result of utilizing emergency appropriations. But the flip side of the coin is that we did not purchase items that were planned for 2012 and now must be considered in 2013, while still abiding by the 2% cap. This is the challenge that the Council and I are prepared to tackle and meet.
In 2012 we established a capital plan to insure we meet the obligations of our aging infrastructure and capital needs. We will continue to fund this plan looking at replenishing it as retiring debt service comes due, thereby not to cause an increase in taxes. There are several new challenges that began late in 2012 and will come to fruition in 2013 or soon after.
1) The Adoption of the Annual Budget is first and foremost and this we have already started. We will challenge every department to live within their means and within the 2% spending cap. We do have the challenges of a fully burdened pension payment in 2013, as you may remember in 2012 this was reduced by the state. We have been successful in reducing some of our costs through competitive shopping for the best prices in energy and insurance to name a few areas. So far, we will save approximately $200,000 in 2013. We will explore and apply for every grant that we qualify for. In spite of all of the challenges, our goal is to have an adopted budget approved by April 1st.
2) Our new Dispatch Center will open sometime around Feb. 1, 2013. This will give us an updated communication center for receiving and dispatching our emergency services. We will also have the capacity to do a shared service with another town.
3) We will pursue our joint plan with Little Flower Parish to do a land swap and secure an updated facility for Town Hall, Police, Library, and more while also establishing a permanent home for Little Flower Parish. Our goal is to do this at minimal to no cost to the taxpayer by marketing our current Town Hall Complex.
4) We will continue to pursue secession from Union County by way of a Town Referendum on this year’s Nov. ballot. You the Citizen and Taxpayer who foot the bill should have the right to make a decision on what County you want to contribute to and be a part of. We will petition the members of the State Legislature to release us through legislation and at the same time petition Morris County to accept us. This is nothing more than a business decision based on a difference in spending philosophy and we believe we have to right to bring this decision to you the residents.
5) On a personal note, it had been my pleasure to forge an association with our Local VFW Post #6259. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Viet Nam War, Jan 27th to be exact. This year I would like our Township to make this a special year for those Veterans. We will keep you posted on Special Events but to name two; first is our Annual Memorial Day Parade and the second is Veteran’s Day. We have discovered that Nov. 8th is that day we were incorporated as a Township and we would like to wrap a celebration around the weekend starting with Berkeley Heights Day on Friday, Nov. 8th and ending with Veteran’s Day on Monday, Nov. 11th. We would like to make this very special as our way of saying “Thank You For Your Service” to these men and women who answered their Country’s call, in a difficult period.
6) We will continue as we have this past year to meet with businesses through our association with the Local Chamber of Commerce and The Rotary Club to insure that all of our present businesses and those contemplating opening in Berkeley Heights know that we are a “business friendly” community with plenty of upside potential. As of this today we have 5 empty store fronts and have had interest in every one of them. In 2012 we had 6 new businesses opening here in town. 100% occupancy is our goal.
These are just some of the many challenges and opportunities that we will tackle as a Township and governing body. We will look to you, our citizens for your input and participation throughout the process. At time we may disagree on some issues, and this is expected, but it is never acceptable to be disrespectful. This will continue to be our pledge as elected member of this community.
Thank you and may God continue to bless our Township, our State and our Country.
Joseph G. Bruno Mayor of the Township of Berkeley Heights, NJ