The Issues

These are issues we know are most important to you; together, we'll make a difference.
 

Continuing With Fiscal Responsibility

Julie and Rina will join Mayor Angie Devanney and Council members Alvaro Medeiros, Susan Poage and Stephen Yellin (“Team Purple”) in pushing for further progress:

Taxes:

Thanks to Team Purple, Berkeley Heights had a lower average tax increase than last year despite massive increases in mandated areas. Team Purple’s fiscally responsible actions saw the portion of the budget we control decrease compared to 2018, even as basic services improved. Julie and Rina will add their expertise in ensuring we continue to save every tax dollar possible.

Municipal Complex

This administration is keeping a close eye on this project to prevent it from going further over budget and over the anticipated finish date. We will continue to ensure that:

  • All major subcontractors submit estimates for project work
  • Our project managers comb through bills, ensuring township is getting billed appropriately
  • We will continue to look for ways to cut down on costs

Grants

In 2019, Berkeley Heights has been awarded higher amounts of grant money, which is being used to fix roads and sidewalks and improve our infrastructure.  Team Purple spurred the creation of the Grants Committee, an all-volunteer group that has already applied for tens of thousands of dollars. Julie and Rina will support their continued efforts to repair more roads and other infrastructure, as well as obtain needed equipment by our volunteer emergency management services, by obtaining more grants.

We will also ensure grants are properly managed by:

  • Continuing we meet all grant deadlines
  • Looking for creative sources of funding
  • Ensuring grant applications are complete and thorough – giving us optimal chances of winning some grant money
  • The money won from grants is properly managed

Alternate Forms of Funding for Our Infrastructure:

Council this year passed an ordinance utilizing the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Bank (NJEIB). This program, under the auspices of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), allows municipalities to borrow 50% of project funds for 0% interest. Additionally, while the project is being constructed, the state charges 0% interest. This will allow the Township to do more with our tax dollars and make the much-needed improvements to our crumbling roads, pipes and sewers. We will continue to seek out projects we can fund through this program.

Shared Services

We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of possibilities to save taxpayers money through the careful use of shared service. There are many ideas out there that could benefit our town while protecting the quality of our services. We need a Council member who will lead the effort to identify every available option and weigh the pros and cons for Berkeley Heights to pursue them. Rina Franchino will be that leader on the Council.

We will pursue:

  • Getting assistance from our state shared service czars, whose job it is to help localities around NJ explore shared services with neighboring towns to save money.
    • The state budget the governor signed in June allocates $10 million for such collaborative initiatives( Shared Services).The money will fund grants to smooth over the “rough spots” of contention that prevent some towns from working together and feasibility studies for municipalities considering collaboration. Funding supports local units’ shared services efforts, and there is additional funding available to support one-time costs incurred during government consolidation efforts.
    • These “Czars” are available to give assessments & advise.
  • Hosting a shared service event in 2020, inviting neighboring township officials, shared services experts, neighboring department heads, and others
  • Arrangements with Union County to preserve green space in our town
  • Seek grant money from various state programs
  • Maximize the use of Union County Kids Recreation Trust Fund grants

Sports and Recreation

For far too many years, our sports and recreation fields lagged well behind our neighbors. Fields were broken up and in disrepair and basic amenities were missing, while stakeholders worked in different silos rather than pooling their talents and resources. Berkeley Heights is finally turning the corner on this front but we need a Council member ready to lead the coalition of residents and stakeholders to make much more progress. Julie Figlar will be that leader on the Council. 

Other initiatives we will spearhead to improve our fields and recreation spaces for residents of all ages:

  • Actively look for alternative, additional options for field space.
  • Conduct an inventory of undeveloped land throughout Berkeley Heights; approach landowners about the possibility of converting or using for sport fields.
  • Work to create more walking/biking/jogging trails along the Passaic River.

Developer Penalties

We need to ensure that any future (re)development agreements include penalties for if/when developers do not meet certain project deadlines.

Following the recent news of delay on the Municipal Complex, we see a need for stronger language in any (re)developers agreement, including the possible loss of their designation, if they fail to perform.  It is time to put teeth into the agreements which will make developers stick to their timelines or forfeit their rights of development.

Plastic Bag & Straw Ban

If enacted, Berkeley Heights would join the more than 20 other municipalities — and one county — that have plastic bag regulations in effect. At least another 11 have passed ordinances which are now waiting to go into effect. At least 19 municipalities are actively developing plastic bag regulations. Lawmakers in Trenton are considering a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, paper bags, plastic straws and polystyrene food containers. (Figures are from June 2019)

  • Working with the Environmental Commission and local business owners to implement a ban in a timeframe and process that will work best for everyone.
  • Propose the Council adopt ordinances restricting the use of single-use plastic bags and other single-use plastic products, such as straws.
  • No business or store shall provide any single-use, plastic carryout bags and/or plastic straws to a customer at the check stand, cash register, point of sale, or other point of departure.

Long-term Management 

Instead of waiting for problems to come up before effectively dealing with them, or kicking the proverbial “can down the road,”  it’s important that Berkeley Heights builds on the long-term management vision brought to town government by Mayor Devanney and Team Purple. This includes:

  • Refining the Master Plan to include specific plans for revitalizing our downtown, using  the proposed Economic Development Committee as the focal point.
  • Improve relations with the business community and continue to partner with the  Berkeley Heights Business & Civic organization on current and future community events.
  • Develop a 5-year budget forecast and a 5-year ratable forecast, both being essential for long-term planning needs.
  • Conduct a thorough review of our Risk Management practices.
  • Continue to evaluate the feasibility of shared service agreements where we can continue to provide a high level of service to our residents while saving tax dollars.
  • Conduct a professional management study in 2020 to find cost savings and efficiencies.

Allergen Alerts

Far too many of our children – and adults – now suffer from serious, and sometimes deadly, food allergies. To protect our residents, we will:

  • Pass an ordinance ensuring all establishments in Berkeley Heights that serve food to print in their menu when/if their food is cooked in any sort of highly allergenic substance, such as:
    • Peanut oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Any other nut-based oil

This will cost the township nothing, and food establishments next to nothing. They can either put printed inserts in their menus, print it on their menus, or otherwise advertise it in their menus or in their restaurant/deli/building.

Communications & Transparency

2019 has seen a significant improvement in how Berkeley Heights government communicates with our residents, with:

  • Monthly columns from our Mayor in TAP
  • weekly videos
  • monthly e-newsletters,
  • regular updates on social media
  • Interaction with residents on social media
  • Mayor’s Facebook page

Julie and Rina will do their part to encourage new and continued initiatives to foster further transparency and public debate.

Protecting Our Environment

Team Purple has fostered a new spirit of environmental advocacy at Town Hall, empowering the Environmental Commission and promoting sustainable-friendly programs such as Trax Plastic. Berkeley Heights now has a Community Garden, and the Township is actively examining ways to reduce pollution and increase recycling rates through the Recycling Taskforce. Julie and Rina will actively support these initiatives as well as others that will help protect the environment. One such initiative they will seek to institute is a town-wide ban on single-use plastic bags and straws.

Revitalizing Our Downtown

The Township is preparing to create an Economic Development Committee to tackle the challenge of revitalizing our downtown, just as Team Purple promised last year. Julie and Rina, as a small business owner and the wife of one, respectively, are fully committed to Mayor Devanney’s vision of renewed economic growth through adopting smart policies that match local needs with business opportunities. One such opportunity is a “Shop BH” program – a tax rewards program for customers who shop locally. Rina and Julie can be counted on to support the Economic Development Committee and its efforts.