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Message on the 2021 Municipal Budget
“A Better Budget for Berkeley Heights,” by Councilman Stephen Yellin – May 4, 2021
When the Municipal Budget was introduced on April 6th, I said that a government’s budget is not merely about revenues and expenditures; rather, it should be a reflection of a community’s values and what its priorities ought to be. Councilman Medeiros and I objected to the budget as proposed because it did not, in our view, reflect our values and priorities as well as it could.
Both of us called for the Township Council and our Administration to come together and amend the Municipal Budget to better reflect our town’s priorities. That call has been answered by the whole governing body, and I appreciate everyone’s willingness to find common ground in making the changes included in tonight’s presentation.
As tonight’s presentation showed, the new Municipal Budget goes a long way towards better reflecting our community’s values. The $5,000 Finance Intern position has been eliminated, while important funding for our Fire Department – critically important equipment, building upgrades, and training – has been restored, and funding for critical sewer, drainage and road projects preserved. We have agreed on the [later] need for a Public Information Officer but have also agreed that a highly valuable program to improve communications with our residents will come first.
The budget reexamination has also seen the Township Council agree to funnel capital investments in better directions, including $50,000 more for road repairs and $150,000 for repairs at our wastewater treatment plant. These are all important improvements that were not in the budget on April 6th .
The new Municipal Budget does not include everything I thought was missing from the original budget. I still believe we ought to meet the original request of our Police Department for an additional officer so as to be in a better position to meet incoming traffic issues caused by expected population growth in the years ahead. In addition, this is the second year in a row in which we are replacing only 1 police vehicle; from a public safety perspective, we ought to be replacing 2 per year.
Nevertheless, the new Municipal Budget is a much better
reflection of the values and priorities of Berkeley Heights. As I said in the April 6th meeting, I had hoped that the Council could make changed to the budget so that we could all vote in favor of adopting it tonight. That is what we have done, and it is why I will be voting Yes.
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