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Second Madison Budget Meeting Encompasses Police, Fire, Public Works and Engineering

Liz Keill

Friday, February 22, 2013 • 7:00am

MADISON, NJ – Four major departments: police, fire, public works and engineering, presented their proposed budgets for 2013 at the Feb. 21 hearing.  
 
The final budget hearing will be 9 a.m. Saturday, March 2, when the Board of Health, utilities and other areas will be covered. The budget will be introduced at the Monday, March 11, council meeting and must go to the state by March 15.  “The budget should be adopted no later than April 26,” CFO Robert Kalafut said.  
 
Finance Chairman Ben Wolkowitz shared a breakdown of the overall tax picture for a home assessed at $409,000, with a market value of $718,000. It shows the school tax at $7,099, an increase of $140 from 2012. Municipal tax would be $2,683, an increase of $39 from 22013. The county tax is estimated at $1,694 so far, the same as last year.
 
The municipal open space tax would be $144, up $62 from 2013. Wolkowitz gave a separate presentation on that tax. He encouraged bond participation notes because of the low interest rates. “The feeling I have is that this is an opportune time for the next step,” he said. “This is a once in a lifetime low level.” He separated the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC) land purchase price from the MRC fields. He recommended bond terms for the MRC land at 3 percent for 20 years and the fields at 2.25 percent for 10 years. He pointed out that the fields have replenishment issues so a shorter term makes sense. Wolkowitz also invited suggestions from the public regarding the open space issue.
 
“These have been harsh economic times,” Police Chief Darren Dachisen said, “but we need to preserve essential services.” The Police Department has 27 police staff and seven civilians, including two secretaries. “Our first goal is the accreditation process,” he said, which will involve overhauling procedures and policies.  He said 100 standards have been adopted by the state. “What is not inspected is not respected,” he said. The accreditation would reduce premiums by 80 percent.
 
He also intends to utilize technology, reducing costs to become more proficient, productive and professional. He has asked for one additional vehicle to replace older ones. One vehicle had been donated to Union Breach following Hurricane Sandy. Dachisen said the department is working with the Board of Education, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and Drew University on security issues.
 
Social worker Bridget Kelly described her work with adolescents in Madison, Chatham Borough and Florham Park. She said she sees about 150 students or families in Madison during the year, dealing with drug issues, trouble with the law or economic stress.
 
“We are running lean and mean,” Fire Chief Louie DeRosa told the council. The budget of $18,500, minus salaries, covers maintenance of the firehouse and small purchases, he said. The department has applied for a federal grant of $25,000. He described a number of functions performed by his department throughout the year, such as testing fire hydrants and fire extinguishers, providing educational tours for schools and providing EMT service with the Madison Ambulance Squad. DeRosa said the department has 13 career firefighters and 33 volunteers. “We can never have enough,” he said and has added 13 more this year. “Our strength is to provide quick response,” he added.
 
The longest discussion involved public works which is headed by Supervisor David Maines. The department includes the shade tree management board, buildings and grounds, vehicle maintenance, sewer lines and garbage and trash removal.  
 
“We’re making do the best we can,” Maines said of his limited staff.  “We try to do more with less.” He explained that OSHA requires six men to be on road repair, which means pulling from another department. He said he needs to prioritize jobs and some end up taking longer than they should. Maines added that parks and fields have increased during the last five years, with greater emphasis on recreation. He would like to add three individuals to supplement his staff. Wolkowitz suggested he review the matter, considering overtime as well.
 
Borough engineer Bob Vogel gave an overview of areas that include historic preservation, Planning Board, Zoning Board, Environmental Commission and the construction code. “We’ve had a very good year,” he said. Revenue has come from building permits, shared services and licenses. “We retired several projects, including the MRC field house.”  Last year, he gave a presentation on street projects in the community which, he said, was well received.  
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