2013 BUDGET ADDRESS MAYOR JAY A. GILLIAN FEBRUARY 14, 2013Good evening and Happy Valentines Day.Because of the length of the agenda I’m going to keep my remarks briefer than the pastcouple years.I do appreciate the opportunity to discuss the state of the city as well as the budget.Looking back, needless to say it’s been quite a year since I last addressed the Counciland presented my Administration’s budget.The budget process in 2012 was informative and smooth and I appreciated theCouncil’s support in adopting a budget that was above all else responsible. One of myobjectives coming into office was to not make the budget process a game or anegotiation. We’ve made our expectations clear, the Council and I together, to thesenior staff. Present what is needed to maintain the expected levels of service in themost cost efficient manner.I’ll speak more specifically about the budget in a moment.The fact that I can again represent that the budget is responsible and fair is due to somegood things that we accomplished in the past year.We have negotiated and approved contracts that are fair to both our team members andthe taxpayers. Although there are short term benefits compared to previous contracts,many of the dividends will appear over time as our workforce becomes younger throughattrition.We’ve developed and adopted the most aggressive capital plan in the City’s history toprovide the improvements to our infrastructure that are long overdue. We’ve done thiswithout burdening the taxpayers in the future by following our professional’s advice,taking advantage of market conditions, and restructuring our debt to provide stabilityand save money over the long term.
We had a good year in terms of revenue with significant increases in the areas ofparking, construction code and the Aquatic and Fitness Center.Thanks to the efforts of the Tourism Commission and the Chamber of Commerce wehad a solid summer season, despite a continued sluggish economy.But obvioulsy none of these subjects will be the first thing that any of us rememberabout the past year. That distinction goes to what occurred just over a hundred daysago.Superstorm Sandy confirmed some important things and taught us some importantthings:#1: We are ready. The training and planning that our team has done over many yearswith our partners at other levels of government had our community as prepared aspossible for the storm and the recovery.#2: We should always listen to the advice and direction of our emergency managementprofessionals. When we are directed to evacuate, we should do just that. Too manypeople stayed on this island, and that includes me. We must never forget that if not fora landfall just twenty to thirty miles further south, our lives and the lives of our firstresponders would have been in jeopardy.#3: We have a great community and that’s the simple reason why we are recovering asfast as we are.Some of the images from this storm and its aftermath that will stay with me foreverinclude: • Our Fire Department fighting fires in unbelievable conditions that could have easily wiped out entire neighborhoods. • The volunteers, many of whom had serious damages to their homes, spending the hours immediately after the storm transferring the Food Cupboard to a new location. • Our downtown merchants receiving help from the students at the high school, volunteer contractors and complete strangers. • Our Public Works Department overseeing and conducting the biggest clean up in our City’s history in an unbelievable amount of time. • The residents of our Housing Authority moving back into their homes over the past two weeks and in the week ahead.On that last point, I have to take this opportunity to again thank the City Council, theHousing Authority, my senior staff and the contractors that have made this happen. 2
There’s no question we would have lost many of these families and seniors from ourcommunity if we hadn’t acted. A few hours ago I was advised that the remainder of thefamily units will have co’s issued tomorrow and can be moved into immediately. Thesenior units are expected to be ready next week.City staff at every level continues to be involved in the recovery from this storm on adaily basis. In addition to the people working hard to get our beaches and publicproperties back in shape, our Community Services team and others are dealing with ahuge volume of calls, walk-in customers and other information from property owners,contractors and professionals involved in the repair, rebuilding or replacement ofdamaged homes.All of this has obviously been complicated by FEMA’s release and the State’s adoptionof Advisory Base Flood Maps and the coming changes to flood insurance rates.We are being extremely proactive in our approach to these maps. On your agenda thisevening is a resolution approving a professional services contract with a nationallyrecognized coastal engineering firm to assist us in dealing with FEMA in the monthsahead as they prepare preliminary maps for release this summer. It is our objective todo everything possible to work with FEMA in order to have the preliminary maps bemore accurate and more realistic in terms of the threats of flooding on many parts of theisland that the advisory maps have designated as the “V” zone.The ABFE Maps are flawed and inaccurate for many parts of our community. They are,by FEMA’s own admission, based on incomplete data and analysis. We’re not in a fightwith FEMA, we are going to work in partnership with FEMA toward a more completeand accurate analysis.That was one of the messages the Business Administrator and I received at a meetingof Cape May County officials we attended in Trenton earlier this week. The Governorwas kind enough to make members of his staff available including the Commissioner ofthe DEP and the head of the state’s recovery effort, Marc Ferzan. These gentlemenand FEMA officials present reinforced that we are all in this together and we need towork together.There continue to be indications that significant sources of grant funding will beavailable to assist owners with elevation projects and we will aggressively pursue anysuch funding.As we have previously discussed with Council, the storm fortunately does not seriouslyimpact the capital plan that we have all reached consensus on. It is however one factor,along with sound decisions we have made, that make this year’s operating budget alittle bit more of a challenge than last year. 3
For example, as I mentioned earlier, we took advantage of favorable market conditionsto permanently finance a portion of our debt earlier than originally planned. That actionincreases debt service this year but saves the taxpayers significantly over the long term.The repayment of the emergency appropriation for the storm along with the uncertaintyregarding the timing of FEMA and insurance reimbursements also impact this budget.On the positive side, the rebid of the trash and recycling contracts and the switch inhealth insurance carriers saves us significant dollars.The bottom line in this proposed budget provides for an increase in the tax levy of 1% .If adopted as presented this would mean the local tax levy this year will be just$292,000. more than my first budget as Mayor in 2011.This budget will come in significantly under the cap for the third year in a row.The budget remains lean and straight forward with no gimmicks. It maintains the samelevel of services that our residents, property owners and visitors expect and enjoy. It’s aresponsible plan for this year, and positions us nicely for the coming years, now that theratable base has stabilized.And that was the other sound and responsible action we undertook in 2012, anextensive reassessment of much of the island for the second consecutive year. I can’tsay enough about the professionalism and hard work that the Tax Assessor and hisstaff put into this huge undertaking. Very few Assessors’ Office’s in the State of NewJersey would be capable of handling this challenge almost entirely in house. We’llreport on this in more detail during the budget workshops.The effects of this budget on individual property owners will vary due to the changes tothe ratable base. 2013 will be similar to years when there has been a completereevaluation, in that some property owners will pay less some will pay more and manywill pay about the same. Again, we’ll discuss this further at the workshops.I appreciate the efforts of the staff as I continue to challenge them to do more with less.They’ve lived up to this challenge again in developing this budget.We look forward to the input of the City Council and the public as we move through thebudget process.Thank you.Mayor Jay Gillian 4