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July 4th Fireworks get budget scrutiny

West Long Branch: Mayor Janet Tucci called the February 22 meeting “A special meeting to work on preparations for the budget” for the upcoming 2012 fiscal year.

Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer, and Purchasing Agent Gail Watkins presented information gathered from department heads.  The special meeting was a numbers-crunching session...a very long session.

Early indications are that a modest increase may be needed to cover increased borough expenses.  Tucci said “This has been the best start in years. It is reflective of the (past) couple of years of doing the things we didn’t like to do.” She said the departments had worked to trim costs and find better ways to get the work done.

The meeting included advisors to the borough, Robert Oliwa and Steven Colville from  the Oliwa and Company CPA firm.  Borough Clerk Lori Cole and Administrator John Kennedy also attended.

Watkins explained year to year changes in the budget from an historical perspective. She gave detailed financials by department. Participating were: Police Chief Arthur Cosentino, First Aid Captain Tracey Newenhouse and Fire Chief Charles Shirley. 

At a low level of detail they examined purchase of police vehicles, communications equipment and police certification and practices; First aid ambulance maintenance and volunteer safety; new firefighter safety equipment to save lives and prevent serious injuries such as the Asbury Park fire when firefighter Jason Fazio was seriously injured.

All proposed increases were closely scrutinized.  The Summer Recreation Program for children proposed an increase in fees to fund fireworks at the July 4th celebration.  Councilmember Chris Neyhart challenged the increase saying the program was free in the past and should not be used as a fund to finance other non-recreation activities.   Current  recreation program costs are about $25 per week per kid.  Compared to costs of typical child care services, the rec program is a bargain.

The matter was temporarily addressed with the fireworks being moved to another budget line. Mayor Tucci hoped the fireworks could be continued.  The long-standing July 4th tradition here in the borough has in recent years been underwritten by generous donations  from Monmouth University and the local PBA.

The next budget date will be announced at the regular council meeting on March 7th.


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