This article was published in the Monday, October 6, 2019 edition of The Patch.
The most important responsibility that I have as Councilman comes at budget time when I work with my fellow Councilmembers to prepare a financial plan that keeps our borough running while also keeping taxes as stable as possible for taxpayers. But, as many can imagine, fiscal sustainability is not always a simple feat, especially in New Jersey.
“Smart, sensible budgeting has allowed Russ Graham, Jenn Blumenstock and myself to continue providing Garwood with top-notch services and keep more money in your pocket, today and into tomorrow.”
That’s why I am especially proud to have served on the Council that created the three lowest successive tax impacts in the past two decades. In fact, in 2018 I supported the budget with no increase for Garwoods’ taxpayers, something rarely accomplished in Union County today. Then in 2019, even though our recycling contract and RVSA fees increased substantially, as the chair of the Finance Committee, I helped to create and pass the second lowest increase in more than 15 years.
I believe that a municipal budget is strongest when it can be diversified, and so I have worked with my colleagues to identify new revenue sources. For instance, we are utilizing redevelopment funds and selling excess sewer flow rights to offset the annual increases in insurance, pension, and other overhead costs. We have also worked hard to secure grants to make necessary purchases and improvements to our town, such as the renovation of Hartman Park—which was paid for in part by grants that we applied for and won for Garwood.
While each budget is for the following fiscal year, we cannot lose sight of the future revenue and expenditures here in Garwood. So that’s why I have incorporated a long-term perspective in our budgeting, developing a 5-year capital plan for Garwood and working with all our departments to plan for their needs, both today and tomorrow. This will help us to identify projects that might not need funding today but may down the road.
Beyond creating and passing a budget, we have worked hard to be transparent about our budgeting and to communicate to all stakeholders—including residents—about the budgeting process. This year, I hosted a “Breaking Down the Budget” town hall before the approval of the budget and had the opportunity to explain to everyone in Garwood the decisions that went into creating the budget.
While some may be tempted to promise quick and easy financial fixes to lower taxes, I know that there are no shortcuts to creating a sensible municipal budget. Something has got to give—either you will be cutting services that Garwood residents rely on, or you effectively kick the can down the road for the next Council to address.
Smart, sensible budgeting has allowed Russ Graham, Jenn Blumenstock and myself to continue providing Garwood with top-notch services and keep more money in your pocket, today and into tomorrow. And if voters choose to elect us, we will continue to strike a balance between these two issues for the betterment of every Garwood resident.
Garwood Council President