Mayor Joann Gattinelli's 2019 Budget Address
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Dear Members of Council and Residents of the Township of Washington:

 {Budget}

The following is a status of the 2019 Washington Township Municipal Operating and Capital Budgets.  I am pleased to announce that the 2019 budgets I have presented will have a slight REDUCTION in municipal property taxes for 2019.  Due to a modest increase in appropriations and the anticipated increase in revenues due to redevelopment and economic development in the Township, the introduction of the 2019 Municipal Budget allows for the Township to reduce the 2019 tax rate.  This, in turn, will lower the local purpose tax for every Township household.  All of this will be achieved with an INCREASE in service to our residents.

 In order to achieve this, my administration, through extensive work with our department heads, has worked diligently to make sure all operational revenues and appropriations are consistent with the needs of our residents.  A detailed cost-benefit analysis of each situation was considered where there was an adjustment in appropriations.

 As in previous years, a reasonable amount of surplus was used to balance the budget.  However, due to the amount of surplus in reserve and the efficiency in managing operations in 2019, it is anticipated the amount of surplus used will be regenerated thereby maintaining the surplus to a prudent governmental standard under generally accepted accounting principles and best practices.

 Adoption of the 2019 municipal budget is anticipated to take place during the Council Meeting on June 5, 2019.

 Resident involvement and transparency within my administration is extremely important. This is why, in addition to our two Open Public Budget Meetings, we decided to provide small group budget meetings, for a more personal experience to hear ideas from our residents. When I first announced our weekly small group budget meetings two years ago, we designated various times for these meetings to accommodate the hours in which our residents work. To accommodate our residents who work during the day, we added multiple small group budget meetings in the evenings.  The purpose of holding these meetings is to connect on a more personal level with our residents and to have constructive dialogue to positively move the town forward on local taxes, budget and resident needs in order for us to consider these ideas before and after proposing the budget.

 {Communication Channels}

Additional efforts to increase communication between the residents and my Administration are reflected in our social media outlets. We frequently update our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, as we know people like to digest their news across many media platforms. I am grateful to be able to write a column in the Washington Township Sun newspaper each week to give updates on what is happening around the town and what we are doing to improve Washington Township. My administration continues to look for ways to communicate more effectively and efficiently with our residents, using channels in which they are most comfortable and familiar with. We are also available via phone, email, and personal meetings. I have stressed with Township employees the importance of responding efficiently to all requests as I understand and appreciate the time and effort it takes for residents to bring questions, issues and ideas to our attention.

 {Human Resources}

In terms of increasing the level of service we provide to our residents, we have worked diligently to ensure our work environment is strictly professional at all times. To reinforce this and to minimize potential lawsuits, we have created an official Human Resources Department.  We continue to schedule ongoing quarterly reviews of all department heads to evaluate year-to-date goal tracking and performance. Additionally, in 2017 we began conducting drug screening and criminal background checks for all potential new hires to Washington Township to ensure our employees are fit to serve the public.  We also have mandatory Anti-Sexual Harassment seminars and Customer Service trainings for all Township employees.

 {Economic Development}

I continue to work closely with the Economic Development Committee to develop plans to bring in new businesses and retain existing businesses. We are excited to build upon the services and products our town has to offer. We are looking to make the process of bringing business to Washington Township efficient on business owners and developers. Our Economic Development Consultant, Nancy Mozzachio continues to meet with individuals interested in purchasing the abandoned properties on Route 42.  On March 13, she hosted a Roadshow Tour of these properties where many brokers, realtors, and potential buyers were able to tour these buildings and learn the specifics of each property.  Additionally, she continues to meet with Township business owners to introduce them to our Shop Washington Township Program which benefits both the merchants and the residents of Washington Township.  Nancy continues to network and meet with business owners who may by interested in bringing new business to the Township.  She also just hosted our second successful Women’s Entrepreneur and Women Owned Businesses event on May 6th at Rowan University.  My administration is willing to put in the necessary work so that we can help Washington Township grow and be a business-friendly town.

 {Cost Savings Initiatives}

Our Shop Washington Township Program continues to grow the number of participating merchants, as well as the amount of residents who are signing up for this program. The purpose of this program is for residents to shop local and support our local merchants while also receiving third quarter annual property tax rebates.  It will also increase revenues to local businesses by encouraging customer loyalty to businesses within Washington Township.  We currently have about 35 participating businesses in the Shop Washington Township Program.  Be sure to visit propertytaxcard.com to view the list of participating merchants.  You may also pick up a Shop Washington Township card at the Municipal Building.  They are available in every department with instructions on how to register your card.

 Prior to my administration, there was no formal vehicle fleet replacement and accountability plan in place.  At my direction, beginning in 2017, the Business Administrator has been working with the department heads from Public Works, Zoning and Construction as well as the Chief of Police to put together a formal plan.  This plan involves reducing insurance payments by eliminating obsolete and unused vehicles between the departments. This cost reduction plan will also allow for reducing the fleet size, selling specific vehicles to recoup funds and create efficiency, so we are using our resources wisely.

 {Capital Improvements}

There will be several Capital improvements throughout the Township this year.  The 2019 Capital Budget includes improvements such as the purchasing of 13 new fully-fitted police vehicles, along with completing Police Administration Building improvements.  We will also continue the continuation of the records retention initiative for the Clerk’s Office software and equipment to restructure retention of permanent records. Also, the restoration and re-opening of Washington Lake which will include the addition of walking and bike paths which will once again be available for residents to utilize.  Additionally, there will be improvements made to the Washington Lake Park playground, along with the addition of an ADA compliant swing so that all children of all abilities can have a place to play.  Also being enhanced at Washington Lake Park, will be the tennis courts and roller hockey rink for all to enjoy.  Finally, you will notice our Bike Share Program kiosk where residents will be able to rent a bike to use in Washington Lake Park, free of charge.

 {School Safety}

My administration has worked closely with the Washington Township School Administration and the Washington Township Police Department to ensure the safety of our students and school staff.  We have increased the police presence within the schools by increasing the number of School Resource Officers.  Safety in our Township, especially within the schools, is a top priority for my administration.  We will continue to keep up police presence for the safety of our students and teachers.

 Finally, I would like to thank all members of Council and the residents of Washington Township for your continued support. Thank you to the many individuals who have reached out to me directly to offer their thoughts and constructive ideas to better our community. We appreciate your patience as we listen to your concerns and find different ways to move the Township forward.  We strive every day to keep Washington Township a great place in which to live, work, and raise a family.

 THANK YOU.