Although he understands the struggles in the current economy, Bridgewater Township Mayor Dan Hayes said he is pleased that the council is moving forward with a budget that is not at the lowest end discussed in terms of a tax rate increase.
After , the council voted Monday to introduce a budget that includes some cuts and lowers the tax rate to only a .
“I am very pleased that the council has put a budget in, moved it forward and agreed upon it,” Hayes said. “I am pleased that it’s a budget that I think will help us reach our goals.”
For Hayes, the goal of the budget is to support the overall vision of Bridgewater as a community that is the envy of others, while also providing all the services residents have come to appreciate.
“The fiscal goal is to be in the lowest quartile, and we will do that with this budget,” he said.
Though Hayes was initially in support of the budget that saw a 6.5 percent increase in the tax rate, he said he is in support of the newest budget with a 3.03 percent increase.
“I am pleased the council recognizes that this budget will provide essential services,” he said. “That is something I don’t think we would have been able to do had the minority of the council prevailed.”
“This allows us to improve infrastructure and defend land use,” he added.
Hayes said the originally submitted budget reflected all the circumstances the township has been impacted by, including significant costs from 2011 through litigation and emergency storm appropriations.
“I think that the budget we submitted was more fiscally conservative in that it worked to build our surpluses and took a little less risk with things like snow reserves,” he said. “We were more conservative in those regards.”
Cuts were made to the budget, and introduced as amendments Monday, and some included such changes as decreases in money available for overtime work for snow removal and other township services.
But, Hayes said, this new budget does not eliminate what the township needs.
“I can’t state enough how happy I am that we have approved a budget that continues to provide essential services,” he said. “It’s a broad range of cuts, and we’ll absorb them into the budget per the council’s command.”
Hayes said he believes bringing the budget down to a 1.9 percent tax increase would have had a negative effect on the township and the ability to provide essential services.
“The administration is committed to providing the most efficient government,” he said. “We would have all liked to have a 0 percent tax increase.”
“But we will continue to strive to find cost reductions,” he added.
One of those reductions, Hayes said, was in bringing inspectors in house, saving the township hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“No one in the administration is resting, everyone knows the importance of finding efficiencies where we can,” he said.
Still, Hayes said, the administration, and the residents, have to remember that there were several unexpected costs in 2011 that the township had to absorb and will have to pay for in 2012, including regular services. Those costs were direct results of Hurricane Irene, the October snowstorm and extra litigation.
“I certainly feel the economy is not strong and many residents are suffering,” he said. “We as the administration value all of those things, but what we are asked to do in the budget is achieve goals.”
“Last year there were some real challenges,” he added. “How much more difficult would it have been to meet those challenges without the township’s help?”
Still, as the township moves forward, Hayes said, decisions will be made to improve quality of life while being conscious of the costs.
“Decisions are made to provide services to protect quality of life and make us a community others envy,” he said. “Those things unfortunately do have costs associated with them, and the council approves them and the bills need to be paid.”