Monday, January 6, 2020
I would like to begin by welcoming everyone here tonight for the annual re-organization meeting of the Borough of Lincoln Park. A special thank you to the elected officials from throughout the county and state who have joined us this evening. And, of course, a special thank you to all the residents of our great town who have taken the time to come here tonight.
As I enter the middle years of my fourth term as Mayor, I remain honored and humbled to serve the people of Lincoln Park. This is a privilege that I continue to take seriously and I am grateful for the support and trust this great community has shown to me.
Congratulations to Councilwoman Thompson on your election to the position of Council President. Your being named to this position again shows the faith your colleagues have in you. Likewise, I believe that you and I have created a very good working relationship over the years and I look forward to continuing that in the coming year.
Councilman Kerwin, you should be proud of your accomplishments as last year’s Council President. Your time at the center seat of the dais saw many town issues and you handled them very efficiently and professionally. I truly value your insight and input and I hope that you will continue to lead from within this coming year.
It has been a pleasure working with our remaining Council members Wild, Ross, Gemian, Moeller and Seise this past year and I expect that we will continue to do so in 2020. I continue to challenge each of you, and myself, that with every decision made, to do what is in the best interest of this community now and for our future. I would encourage that all of us in this community do the same. As I stated a few years ago, it is important to look past what is good for “each” of us and look towards what is good for “all” of us. I have also said that “party” politics in small towns like Lincoln Park has no place. Those of us involved in town government should be concerned with providing our residents the most amount of service, in the most efficient manner, to save the most amount of money.
Speaking of money, 2019 again, had only a very small increase in municipal taxes for our residents. In 2019, we actually lowered spending by over a quarter of a million dollars and council, administration and I worked on a budget which was over 1.25 million below what our state mandated cap allowed us. We continue to be less reliant on use of surplus funds in our budget. Previous administrations & councils have used surplus upwards of 10-11% to offset spending.
Those of us making up this governing body have lowered our reliance on surplus funds which have been in the range of 5-8% of total budget in the last few years. We were able to increase our Fund Balance by over 2 million dollars in last year's budget. A healthy Fund Balance provides tax stability and contributes to the orderly provision of services from year to year. A healthy Fund Balance also protects taxpayers from unexpected changes in financial conditions such as cuts in state aid and/or a natural disaster emergency.
We have been able to rely less on use of surplus due to several components that I initiated and council has supported for some time now. Zero based budgeting, anticipating future budget needs rather than focusing solely year to year, and instituting a 10-year capital purchase plan have all helped us get to where we are today. And, where we are today, has helped us get to a place where we are well prepared for the future financial needs of the town. We have begun to self-fund large capital purchases whenever possible, rather than borrow and increase our debt. In fact, we continue to be on track to have Lincoln Park totally debt free by 2030. All of these components are possible and begin with the watchful eye that our CFO Fabiana Melo and Business Administrator Perry Mayers keep over our budget. The cooperation and willingness of all of our department heads to be as economical as possible also aids us in providing great service at an effective cost. This old school oversight and the policies adopted will eliminate the dependence on diminishing sources of revenue that the borough has relied on in the past to help balance budgets and offset uncontrolled spending. I am confident that these steps will help us in a positive way with future year’s budgeting and continue to ensure that the future of Lincoln Park as a community is a vibrant and prosperous one!
The borough has also assisted our residents with attaining significant savings of their own. Our participation in the Energy Aggregation Program has saved our community over one quarter of a million dollars since its inception. More impressive, our reentry into the Federal Community Rating System has collectively saved our residents who rely on flood insurance over $438,000.00 in 2019 alone. The average policy savings was $750.00 per household to help offset the rising costs of flood insurance.
However, things aren't always about money. Quality of life, including safety, convenience and activities are a huge part of what we must provide our residents as elected representatives. I am happy to report that 2019 continued to bring new and exciting activities for our residents along with continuing many of the ones that we have all come to expect and enjoy. Kathy Skrobala in the Health Department and Janet Cassidy in the Recreation Department do a tremendous job in making these activities accessible to our community and keeping them exciting. Both of these departments are staffed by wonderful people who strive keep us healthy and active.
Unfortunately, unacknowledged as they often are, but fortunately there for our convenience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is Rick Beyer and the members of our Department of Public Works. These dedicated men and women ensure that our water comes in, recycling and trash goes out, roads can be traveled, public spaces are clean and so much more.
Sal Marino and the staff of our Building Department serve the town from everything from major developments to small questions.
Court Administrator, Ashley Fritz and those involved in our court system provide a fair and balanced environment for justice and resolutions of disputes.
Fabiana Melo and the men and women in the Finance office go above in beyond in making things like tax collection, paying bills and tax assessment as pleasant as possible for our residents.
Perry Mayers and Dina Valente-Stoel in my office and Cindi Sloane and Courtney Fitzpatrick in the clerk's office are always happy to help residents and I thank them especially for the assistance they give me year-round.
With regards to your safety, I continue to stand by my belief that we have the best of the best in Lincoln Park. Fire Chief Joe Fede, along with outgoing EMS Chief Beth Anderson and incoming EMS Chief Jay Meisch, lead a dedicated group of volunteers who leave the comforts of their own home and time with their family, whenever called, to lend you assistance. From minor injuries to life threatening health issues, from a broken smoke detector to fully engulfed house fires, or motorists trapped inside a demolished vehicle, these brave men and women do everything in their power to assist, save and protect you, your loved ones and your property.
Your safety is also well watched over by the men and women of our Police Department. Chief Tony Simone and his staff officers oversee the finest department, dedicated to serving your safety and protection. I do have to take a moment to comment on something I read on line recently. There was a social media post several weeks ago listing the number of hate crimes by town in New Jersey. Lincoln Park was listed as having one hate crime in 2018 and there were several comments that even one is too many. I wholeheartedly agree, one hate crime is far too many. That being said, it turns out that the case in question was actually a road rage incident in which there was a report that one of the motorists involved made an inappropriate comment. Being proactive, and aware of the situation and circumstances, the officer's involved decided to inform the county prosecutor's office of what was reportedly said. The county investigated and declared that no hate crime was committed. First, I would like to say outstanding job by the officers involved and our department as a whole for being sensitive to these types of offenses. Second, it is important to note that, contrary to what was reported, Lincoln Park did not have a hate crime in 2018. I can also let you know there were no hate crimes in 2019 either. In fact, there have been no hate crimes that I can recall at all in the recent past.
Lincoln Park is a community made of many people, diverse nationalities, assorted religions, different races, varied sexual orientations and gender identities, young and old. Those who immigrated to this country and those born here. Some have spent their entire lives here; others are new to our town. Yet, with all this differences, we make up one community...one great, wonderful, thriving, safe and accepting community! I am proud of the part I have contributed to this community; I am thankful to our elected officials for their support of this community and am proud of each and every one in this community for being part of it.
I wish you all the best of Health, Wealth and Happiness in 2020 and beyond.
Dr. David A Runfeldt
Mayor, Borough of Lincoln Park