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Letters To The Editor: Questions For The Town Council

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

We have received the following letter from Liz Knoop, who has actively questioned Verona’s budget choices at many Town Council meetings during the last year. The Council will vote tonight on the 2011 proposed budget, which was introduced last week. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Council chambers on the second floor of Town Hall

Dear Town Council members:

I have reviewed the budget and have some suggestions and questions below. I think it would be great if each of you could champion one of the below line items or something else you might have come across in the budget that can save the town money, even if it is a small amount. It would be a good will gesture to show your constituents that you are truly looking at the budget and trying to trim costs.

Thanks
Liz Knoop

Library – what we are required to budget for by the state? We have salaries in the budget for 516K, employee benefits of 120K, social security for 39K and terminal leave for 30K for a total of 705k or over 80% going to people instead of books, computers, materials and programs! Is it worth maintaining this budget level for a $575.00 grant or can we run the library with less personnel costs?

Library phones are budgeted for 9k. Can they use email for processes such as reserve book notification or send an automated message from the online library system. If their system doesn’t have this capability, can they can set up a form in email into which they can just type the book name and the email address?

Longevity pay – 227k for the town, 68k for water & sewer and 113k for police for a total of 408k. Can anything be done about this? If not now then in the next contract?

Basic accounting/budgeting – I noticed quite a few line items that were budgeted for a certain amount last year but even though less than 80-90 % of that budget was spent but they weren’t reduced in the new 2011 budget. One or 2 were even increased. Why? They should be reduced by 10-20% unless a specific expenditure can be cited. Plus any category that hasn’t had any expenditures for 2 years should be eliminated. The approach of budgeting taxpayer dollars for expenditures that haven’t occurred in 2 years does not make sense. Isn’t that what the surplus is for?

The Dues & Subscriptions and Books & Publications categories in each department should be reviewed. My firm went through this type of review one year and found a lot of unnecessary expenditures which saved it a bundle.

Do we pay an external service for shredding? Can we do it in-house for cheaper by buying a high grade shredder? Why have we increased this budget by 200 to 2300 even though we only spent 1660 last year? Can information be stored online to eliminate sensitive information on paper? Either of these approaches would eliminate the risk of losing the information in the transfer process to an outside vendor.

The town spends a considerable amount on postage. Can we automate any process(es) to reduce this? A lock box for tax , water & sewer payment processing? Using email blasts and the website as a substitute to mailings for informational news?

What does the Operating Expense under Blgs and Grounds budgeted for 43k cover? Why did this deptartment spend 3000 in Conference/Meeting & Education
– a 100% increase in actuals this year which then resulted in a 100% increase in budget for 2011 (1500 to 3000).

The dispatcher salaries went up 6K but the budget was adjusted 39K why? If they are adding a part timer which is reflected in a 30K increase based on actuals in that category why are we also increasing overtime to 15K?

Health – what do we pay 65K to Montclair for shared services if we still have over 111K in salaries and 22k in expenses for a total of 133k?

Recreation expenses are a total of 700K total of which 543K is in salaries, including overtime, and a budget increase of 12K for this year. Why do we have 1700 in dues and subscription? What is the special programs/offset of 40K? What is 10K in supplies in addition to 35K in equipment? Linn Drive field 6K – why does this field have an expense line and others don’t? The 700k expense is offset by only 241k in revenue so a total of 459K is being paid by the residents or about $100 per household if we say we have 5000 households in Verona. Is it fair to people who don’t use any recreational facilities to have to pay for their neighbor’s recreation? I don’t think so. Even a phased in “Pay for Play” approach- 25% reduction a year for 4 years could save over 100k this year.

Civic affairs: Education and travel is 5500 – why is this necessary? Special events is 23K what is in this category given the other categories of Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Holidays, Fair in the Square which have a budget of over 40K? The Holiday category spending is up from 5500 to 14K due to spending of 14K last year – does this make sense in this economy to spend or increase a discretionary item by over 60%. The Fair in the Square cost 9200 in 2010 so we adjusted our budget from 7000 to 9500 (an increase of over 25% based on this years actuals). I thought this would be a self funding event but don’t see a revenue offset….same question….why are we
increasing a discretionary expense?

Recycling: Why was 5K spent in office supplies if the budget was only 2K and why would they need to increase the budget 150% this year to 5K? Have they added an extra manual process? Is it necessary? Can it be automated?

The Children’s Institute – Are they still in litigation and thus not paying the full rate as Mr Martin once explained to me? Why are their taxes going down? They are projected to ONLY pay 16K next year.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

1 COMMENT

  1. Great letter from Liz Coop! Very well thought. Thank you taking the time to put all those ideas together. I only hope they are considered and incorporated into the budget.

    We need to be there tonite at the meeting at 7 pm to show our presence and that we won’t take this any more!

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