This article was published in the Thursday, September 26, 2019 edition of the Westfield Leader.
One of the biggest responsibilities of a local elected official is the municipal budget. As the current finance chair and having served on this committee twice, I feel compelled to make this the topic of my letter today. While it only makes up 33 percent of the tax bill (with the rest coming from the board of education and the county), the municipal budget provides all the services from public safety to garbage pickup, sewer system, recreation, senior programs, and much more. I know it takes hard work all year long to find new ways to save money, and it is important for us to involve the public throughout the process.
“We are proud of the real results we have brought for Garwood. For one, the municipal taxes were a flat, zero dollar increase last year for the first time in 17 years.”
When Jen Blumenstock and I first ran for office three years ago, we made fiscal responsibility and public outreach our top priorities. For this very reason, we started the “Breaking Down the Budget” informational meetings where residents could hear more about the municipal budget and services and ask their questions. These sessions were held each year since we were elected and the PowerPoint presentations were posted on the borough website for residents to look at, even if they were unable to attend the meeting.
When Sara Todisco took the office of Mayor, she created a first-ever Citizens’ Advisory Panel of nine residents with a range of backgrounds, which I participated in as finance chair. This initiative has increased our ability to directly involve residents in the decision-making process of capital purchases, like equipment and roads.
We are proud of the real results we have brought for Garwood. For one, the municipal taxes were a flat, zero dollar increase last year for the first time in 17 years. This year, we had a $35 tax increase, the second lowest in 18 years. While keeping taxes down, we have invested in our departments to properly equip them, including a street sweeper to replace the one from 1990 that was no longer operable and a rescue ladder truck to ensure our fire department can reach the over 40 buildings, including the school, that they currently cannot. All this feedback from the panel and from department heads allowed us to come up with a five-year capital improvement plan to spend on projects that were urgently needed. In addition, we went through every budget line to cut out waste and even help increase revenue by selling unneeded sewer flow rights to Springfield and hiring a financial expert to help us negotiate a better deal with our redevelopment builders.
We find it alarming that our opponents will stop road projects and new equipment purchases. They say they won’t spend, but a town can’t run properly or safely without proper upkeep. We believe it is important to keep road projects going, so our roads don’t fall into even poorer condition. We believe it is important to replace old DPW, Police, and Fire equipment. Let’s not forget the times in 2016 when we needed another town to bail us out to make sure residential garbage was still picked up because the Republicans on council voted no on a new garbage truck.
I hope you will support me along with my running mates, Jen Blumenstock and Russ Graham, to continue to bring real results for you.
Marc Lazarow, Garwood Councilman