BY RINA FRANCHINO
As a candidate for Township Council along with Julie Figlar, I am proud to see how Team Purple, lead by our Mayor, Angie Devanney has practiced what they preached when it comes to running a fiscally responsible government. Sharing services is one area which can yield great results in both saving dollars and providing the same level or even increased services. Berkeley Heights needs a Council member who will lead the effort to identify every available option when it comes to sharing resources, and who will weigh the pros and cons in pursuing such options. I will make this my top priority if elected.
We have already seen great results from two new particular shared service initiatives this year. The first is sharing our salt dome with Union County; this will bring in tens of thousands of dollars in new revenue every year by having the County contribute. The second, to bring on former DPW Director Joe Graziano (now serving in a similar role in Union County) as our temporary, part-time Director, is saving taxpayers $70,000 a year, while leading to a much more efficient Public Works Department that is getting more work done than recent years. More roads are being paved, more trees are being trimmed, potholes are getting repaired more quickly, basin repairs are finally getting done, and our drainage issues are finally being addressed with short and long term improvement plans.
There are many other ideas out there that could – emphasis on could – benefit our town while protecting the quality of our services. I want to serve as the Council’s “point person” on shared services in order to give this topic the attention it deserves. As a working mother of two, I understand how important it is to make every dollar count, both at home and as a teacher in the classroom. It’s the same concept at the municipal level.
This year, the State appointed two Shared Service Czars and allocated $10 million for collaborative shared services throughout New Jersey. The money will fund grants and efforts to smooth over the “rough spots” of contention that prevent some towns from working together, as well as feasibility studies for municipalities considering collaborating. We need to engage these czars (one who is former Mayor of Summit, Jordan Glatt) to get advice and help provide assessments. Funding supports local units’ shared services efforts; there is additional funding available to support one-time costs incurred during government consolidation efforts. Berkeley Heights should be at the front of the line.
To that end, if elected I will push for Berkeley Heights to host a shared service “summit” in 2020, inviting neighboring township officials, shared services experts, neighboring department heads, and others to share ideas, offer advice, and examine ways towns can work together to save money without impacting the quality of the service we provide our residents. Berkeley Heights can play a major role in promoting fiscally responsible policies that will make communities like ours more affordable, especially for senior citizens who want to continue living here after they retire.
I also want to work with Union County to identify ways we can pool our efforts to preserve green space in our town. There are only a few acres of land that can’t be built upon by developers making it critically important that we do all we can to preserve and create open space. Shared service programs may be a way to do that. Finally, I want to work with the newly formed Grants Committee to seek money from various state and county programs where shared services may come into play. Programs such as the Union County Kids Recreational Trust Fund grants need to be utilized to their maximum extent so that we can leverage our tax dollars.
Julie and I care about making Berkeley Heights the best it can be. As longtime residents, parents, and community leaders, we will work with the rest of Team Purple to promote fiscally responsible government, maximizing our tax dollars without hurting township services. That is Progress We Can Count On! For more about our campaign visit us on Facebook at Rina & Julie 4 BH. Please feel free to email me at [email protected]with any questions or comments.
See you around town! – Rina