Each candidate was asked “What’s your approach to budgeting? How do you hope to balance maintaining services while trying not to raise taxes?” Responses were limited to 200 words. Their answers are presented in the order they were received.
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Jack McEvoy is running for the Verona Township Council in 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Jack McEvoy)
Services in Verona are mixed insofar as the method of their delivery. IE: Waste and recycling collection occur through a contracted agreement after going out to public bid. Our job as Council members is to ensure that we receive the best available services at the lowest possible cost. Bid review and the specifics of agreements must be carefully negotiated.
Verona also depends upon other municipalities for certain shared services, such as animal control. Sometimes these agreements don’t offer the savings that we’d hope for. When
Verona offers it’s services to other townships, the benefits seem more agreeable. Verona currently offers construction code enforcement services to Roseland. This brings revenue into our budget.
Finally, Verona offers many services directly to the township through its various departments. Each department manager knows that efficiency in that valuable delivery is the number one priority. It’s also a responsibility of the Council and Management to find savings through our everyday expenses. This year, we saved on employee healthcare benefits by shopping for a significantly better deal. Effective budgetary oversight and our capacity to be flexible enough to make necessary adjustments is the key to maintaining our townships services without necessarily having to raise our taxes.
Verona Mayor Kevin Ryan seeks reelection to the Township Council in 2017. (Photo: File photo)
We usually provide general suggestions and outline what expectations are to the Manager before the process begins. For example, take a hard look at overtime. All budgets are basically divided into revenue and expenses. New Jersey has very specific requirements regarding revenue that can be anticipated in a given year so I tend to rely on the expertise of our CFO in determining revenue sources. We are provided with prior year budgeted expenses, what was actually expended and the proposed expense for the current year I examine the specific line items, paying close attention to any proposed increase over what was actually spent in the prior year. Including, but not limited to, overtime, and payroll amounts. Using this approach has to keeping the tax rate flat at .785 in 2015, 2016 and 2017. We expect a substantial increase in debt service however, in 2018 so I think some type of increase is inevitable unless drastic cuts are made. I don’t like saying it but I want to be upfront with the voters. I would consider raising some fees, a hiring freeze in some departments, and working in cooperation with our bargaining unit employees to control expenses to maintain essential services.
Chris Piccuirro is running for the Verona Township Council in 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Chris Piccuirro)
As I’ve said since the beginning of this campaign, I want to make sure we stay on the right path as Verona and neighboring towns continue to develop. Controlling spending while maintaining, if not improving, our services will be my focus. My approach to this is to ensure services are running as efficient as possible. At the very minimum the taxpayers in this town deserve to get what they pay for. This is done by budget transparency and operating efficiency.
I believe my software engineering background will help reduce spending in our technical services. Technology improves so fast that it must be revisited regularly, and if monitored appropriately it can result in significant savings. Many companies today are transitioning to “the cloud” because it provides the same, or better, service at a cheaper cost. The cloud is essentially the “shared services” of the tech world. Operating costs are divided between multiple customers using a shared platform. It also provides the ability to use a variable cost structure which can be easily altered as your needs change. This is one example of how embracing new technologies is critical when formulating a sound budget.
Ted Giblin is running for the Verona Township Council in 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Ted Giblin)
Verona residents expect and receive a high-level of services from municipal government. Our citizens want honesty and consistency, not rubberstamping and political grandstanding. Keeping budgets artificially lean during an election year and then hitting residents with a large tax increase the following year is irresponsible planning.
As Councilman, I will work with residents to see what services are most necessary and will put all budget line items on the table for discussion in order to find a balance between cutting expenses while preserving services. We need to continue expansion of shared services agreements with neighboring towns to reduce our own costs.
Numerous budgetary challenges lie on the horizon including a County of Essex mandated real estate revaluation. Interest rates are rising and as our debt payments are coming due, we need to buckle-down and pay for projects out of our operating budget rather than “kicking the can down the road” through accumulation of additional debt.
I will support efforts to make Verona more business-friendly, filling empty store-fronts and easing the tax burden to our residents.
Carrie Ford is running for the Verona Township Council in 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Carrie Ford)
I will approach the budget with common sense and with an eye on both short- and long-term effects. The Council must carefully weigh the benefits of expenses and savings efforts. I’m an experienced and savvy budget-maker; I’ve saved my company millions of dollars. I believe this skill will be an asset to our Town Council.
It’s well established that residents pay high property taxes. But our taxes cover only 25% of the municipal budget and all our essential services: Police Department, Public Works, recycling, garbage, infrastructure, recreation, and community services. It’s crucial that funds are strategically managed to protect these key services. If elected, I will analyze the town’s expenses to identify and reduce any unnecessary or wasteful spending.
Over the next two years, Verona will undergo another revaluation, which, historically, causes an increase in some homeowner’s taxes. On top of this unavoidable reassessment, the current Council has advised it will likely raise taxes in the coming years. I’m committed to transparency, strategic management, and fair and balanced budget to benefit all Verona residents. I want to help ensure that Verona residents’ concerns–for wallets and for well-being–are strongly represented amid these reassessments and Council decisions.
Donna Cannizzaro is running for the Verona Township Council in 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Donna Cannizzaro)
As costs of goods and services increase, so does the cost of government. The Council and Town Manager constantly explore alternatives to address increases without raising taxes, and, maintain a level of service that our residents are entitled to.
Verona operates under a Council-Manager form of government (under the Faulkner Act) which mandates that the governing body sets policy. The Town Manager operates as CEO and is appointed or removed by majority vote of the Council. The Council appoints the municipal clerk, tax assessor, planning and zoning boards, municipal and court attorneys. The Manager, as CEO, has the authority to hire, terminate or discipline township personnel as well as work with the Department Heads to create and present the budget to the Council. The Council cannot override the Manager but can offer suggestions, provide input and concepts to the Manager to look for ways to improve deficiencies without sacrificing services or raising taxes.
Like most businesses, as people leave or retire, companies look for ways to consolidate services before filling an open position. The rapidly changing world of science and technology necessitates finding best practices in order to streamline, consolidate and prioritize functions and resources, but NEVER compromise life-saving services.