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Madison’s Second Budget Hearing Covers Engineering, Board of Health and Library

Liz Keill

Monday, February 13, 2012 • 6:28am

MADISON, NJ – The Saturday, Feb. 11 Madison budget meeting encompassed several departments, as well as allowing time for a revenue/expenditure update and a town hall meeting.
 
Bob Vogel, who heads the engineering department, provided an overview of shared services with Chatham, as well as information on the planning and zoning boards, construction code, environmental commission and historic preservation.
 
The 1,542 permits issued in Madison and Chatham this past year produced fees of $1.248,025. “This is extraordinary” he said. “We’ve brought in more revenue than ever before and I’m quite proud of our staff.  In the middle of a recession, we’ve exceeded past fees.”
 
Vogel noted that the department needs to modify its agreement with Chatham because of the additional work, which exceeded 20 percent of the time allocated to that community. “The staff is pulled in two directions,” he said.
 
Councilman Robert Catalanello said, “If our staff is spending more than 20 percent of its time, we want more money.” But Mayor Robert Conley said that shared services with Chatham have existed for many years and, in terms of fees and hours generated, “I would think they’d understand and be positive.”   
 
Council President Jeannie Tsukamoto encouraged ratables to offset residential property taxes. “We need to be more business friendly and user friendly,” she said. Vogel said Madison does not have a lot of empty buildings, but that a regulatory agency is important. “It’s not always a yes answer,” he said of applications. He noted that technology improvements have helped to serve customers and increase efficiency.  Although change orders cost money, he said, design issues are affected by unforeseen conditions. The department has hired a licensed professional for oversight “who is out there constantly.”
 
The council also heard from the Board of Health. Director James Norgalis emphasized the “myriad of services that Madison residents are demanding…and that’s okay.”  He said that the borough has contracts with five municipalities, which produce revenue of $372,549.  In addition, the revenue from animal and business licensing, vital statistics and vaccination services has produced $110,642 in revenue over the last five years. These revenues offset the cost of the department, $735,505, for a reduced cost of $252,404 to the borough.
 
The primary expense involves salary and wages, overtime and health benefits.The director broke down the cost per capita for health services in Madison, which comes to $15.93 per resident. Several people in the audience noted that having the service right in town is an asset not enjoyed by neighboring communities.
 
Catalanello, again, focused on the five-year business plan. “We requested one last year and we did not get one,” he said. The director explained that he came on board the first of June and had until September to create a business plan as well as learning about the community and the system in Madison. Councilman Robert Landrigan commented on the two major storms that hit this fall, the hurricane the end of August and snowstorm the end of October.
 
The director asked for guidance from the council so that he can come up with a business plan that addresses their concerns.
 
Mary Smith of Academy Street said she was concerned about pest control, with small animals getting into her house through a duct in the clothes dryer.  She said her neighborhood has seen coyotes, red foxes, chipmunks and blackbirds, among other creatures. The director said the Board of Health responds to dogs and cats, rats, and roaches, but not to animals considered ‘wild.’ He said animal control would be the source for those issues.
 
Madison Library Director Nancy Adamczyk outlined accomplishments at the public library, including a new website and logo; refurbishment of the Technical Service Department and a successful fundraising drive by the Friends of the Library. Goals for 2012 include a strategic planning process, Touch a Truck fundraiser, Wii games for loan, abatement of Adult Services book stack ceiling and developing a ‘tween area in the Children’s Department.
 
Adamczk noted that the staff level is high compared to some other departments and consists of 13 salaried staff and 14 hourly, for a total of 27. That is down from 2008, when 30 staff members were employed.  She said, however, that 2012 provides a 3 percent salary increase, the first time in three years and that the library staff has the lowest compensation level of borough offices.
 
Library usage continues to rise, with a circulation of 173,765 in 2011 and 7,838 cardholders. Library Board of Trustees President Thomas Bintinger also addressed the council. The presentation included expenditures and a comparison of allocation proposals from the borough between 2008 and 2012.
 
Residents were invited to comment on all aspects of the budget presentations. Conley said a capital budget meeting will be held Thursday evening, Feb. 16.
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