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Madison — Candidate Statements

Candidates Byrne and Gertler Cite the Value of Madison’s Open Space, Recreation and Historic Trust Fund

Maureen Byrne and Jeff Gertler

Thursday, October 3, 2013 • 7:41pm

MADISON – In a joint statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council Maureen Byrne and Jeff Gertler reaffirmed their support for Madison’s Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

The candidates stated, “We are proud that Madison residents gave wholehearted, bipartisan support to the 2003 referendum to establish the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Open space initiatives have proven to be major successes not only statewide but also here in Madison.  

Leveraging our Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, Madison was successful in obtaining $8,892,000 in state and county grants for the purchase of the 49 acres off of Ridgedale Avenue now known as the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC).  Besides helping to acquire property, the Trust Fund contributes to maintaining and improving what we already own. Recent examples include improving the Bayley Ellard site and repairing the Cole Park fountain. 

At the September 9th borough council meeting, the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Advisory Committee recommended Trust Fund support for several new projects, including upgrades to the Bayley Ellard and MRC sites for enhanced passive and active recreation and for maintenance of the historic building housing the Museum of Early Trades & Crafts.  Madison cannot afford to lose opportunities like these that enhance our quality of life at minimal expense to our taxpayers.  Quality of life is what attracts people and businesses to Madison and helps to maintain the value of our homes.”

Candidate Byrne observed that “former Republican Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden, in a recent Newark Star Ledger column, wrote that land preservation projects in New Jersey always have been a bipartisan issue, ‘something voters and elected leaders from both sides of the aisle supported.  That’s because land, water, and historic preservation efforts are a wise investment in the future.’   How right she is.

Since 2003, we have seen the preservation of the Luke Miller house on Ridgedale Avenue and the acquisition of Livesey Park, the Bayley Ellard site and the 49 acres, where we have built a first-class sports complex and community garden – with more to come.  As a member of the MRC Master Plan Advisory Committee, I look forward to helping create a plan for the rest of the complex.” 

“Gertler added, “Not unlike why we save money in a savings account at home – we don’t always know what the next expenditure will be.  When we tap into it for a planned or unplanned (but necessary) expenditure, we are very glad we had the foresight to save.  That common sense approach needs to be employed with our Open Space Fund – especially because State and County grants allow us to leverage so much of what we save.

As a Planning Board member, I have participated in the development of an Open Space Plan for the town’s Master Plan, a requirement for the town to obtain state Green Acres grants.  This plan reinforces Madison’s commitment to open space acquisition and preservation, recreational facilities and historic preservation.”

The candidates noted that “a portion of the Fund will also pay for the turf field complex at the MRC. A previous Council voted to create the fields before it had a viable plan to pay for them. Regrettably, we now know that user fees and donations will not cover the full cost, and public money will be required to help pay for the fields. Under the circumstances, we support bonding to pay the borough’s contribution of $1.263 million toward the cost of the fields and for using the Open Space Fund to pay off the principal and interest on the bond.

We also fully support the Council’s recent decision to reduce the Municipal Open Space Tax rate from 2 to 1.8 cents per $100 of assessed value.  We recognize that with the recent assessment of our homes, the amount of tax collected has actually increased, but we need that money to pay off the long-planned debt for the purchase of the 49 acres and the unexpected debt to cover the cost of the turf fields. Moreover we need to ensure that there is some residual money left in the fund to pay for new projects, otherwise the tangible benefits of supporting this fund will soon come to an end.” 

Byrne and Gertler concluded that the “Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund has been a good deal for Madison taxpayers. If elected to Council, we will do our utmost to keep it that way. We hope that future generations will enjoy the many and varied projects the Trust Fund already has made possible and those that we will work to make sure are completed in the years ahead.”

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