Mayor Michael Skudera’s State of the Borough Address, as prepared for delivery, April 16, 2013
Good evening everyone and thank you for being here. Tonight, I will share the many accomplishments that have been collectively achieved and highlight our goals for 2013.
First, I would like to recognize the members of the governing body. Council President Baldwin,
Deputy Council President Pak, Councilwoman Fama, Councilman Larkin, and Councilman Schertz, it is an honor working with each of you as we move Tinton Falls forward.
I would like to thank the borough employees, who are the backbone of this town. I like to thank my team that works with me day-in-and-day-out: Borough Administrator Gerry Turning, Borough Attorney Brian Nelson, Chief Financial Officer Steven Pfeffer , Director of Public Works Gary Gebele, Chief of Police John Scrivanic, Director of Information Technology Dan Romanov, Borough Engineer Dave Marks, and my assistant Liz Morris.
We live in a great town called Tinton Falls. It is an excellent place to raise a family, to work, and even to retire.
In fact, in 2012 Tinton Falls was named the Best Town to Retire in New Jersey by the Star Ledger.
Tinton Falls is a town – where people care. During the height of Superstorm Sandy, when power was out to large sections of the borough, over 250 volunteers answered our call for help. They went door-to-door to check on those without power, some of whom had no power themselves. These kind-hearted individuals shared food, firewood, and even ran errands for those in need.
Tinton Falls is a town – with a low crime rate. We are protected by a highly educated, professional and dedicated police department. When the horrible tragedy occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, our police chief immediately worked with our schools to improve their security measures and protect our children.
Tinton Falls is a town – where our community comes together. Last year our Community Day event drew its highest attendance on record.
Tinton Falls is a town – that has active and growing recreational facilities. We have activities for all ages at every season.
Tinton Falls is a town – that has seen great progress over the past 4 years. Some of which include:
Some Impressive Metrics
- Structuring the largest single, open space acquisition our town has seen.
- The largest period of infrastructure investment.
- The strongest emergency management department.
- The largest volunteer CERT team.
- The most stable and smallest growing budgets.
- The strongest bond rating.
- The best tax collection rate.
- The opening of the largest solar farm in the State of New Jersey.
However, things in Tinton Falls weren’t always this good. We have seen our share of struggles and difficulties.
Jobs and Economic Development
I was elected mayor in 2009, during a dismal economy. People were losing their jobs and homes. Companies were leaving the area and Fort Monmouth was about to close after ending its long history as being the top employer of the area. We inherited a budget that had too much spending and too little safety net. We inherited an aging infrastructure and poorly maintained equipment.
My administration faced enormous challenges from day one, but we took them on because the stability of our borough depended on it.
Since those early days, we have taken the right steps and are starting to bounce back. To encourage business growth, I created the Office of Economic Development to work with existing borough departments and outside agencies to reduce red tape and help attract companies to come to Tinton Falls. We are looking to create more jobs and offer tax relief to our residents
Many new businesses have either relocated or expanded their operations including:
CommVault – the world’s fastest growing software data storage company. They recently broke ground on their new world-wide headquarters in Tinton Falls. They plan to create up to 1,500 new jobs in the technology sector.
MagnaCare – which an insurance company, opened their main offices in Tinton Falls last year. They were recently named one of the best places to work in the state by NJBIZ Magazine.
The Millennium Group – headquartered in Tinton Falls, provides office support solutions. This year Inc Magazine ranked them third among the top private business job creators in New Jersey.
EPS Corporation – with its headquarters in Tinton Falls is expanding its operations. They provide services that support the Department of Defense.
The Two River Community Bank – moved into a larger headquarters in Tinton Falls to accommodate their growth.
Johnstone Supply – is a recognized national leader in the heating and air-conditioning industry and last year relocated to Tinton Falls.
The Tinton Falls Solar Farm – became fully operational in October. It is the largest in New Jersey and one of the largest on the east coast. It provided hundreds of highly skilled union and professional jobs during construction, and with 85,000 solar panels on 100 acres of land; it generates the equivalent energy to power nearly two-thirds of the homes in Tinton Falls.
My administration is also currently working on the feasibility of adding solar panels to a retired 50 acre reclamation site in Tinton Falls. This would be owned by the borough with revenue going to the borough to provide tax relief.
Meadowbrook II – is a new senior community, which started construction last year. It will provide additional tax revenue without negatively impacting the school’s budget.
Former CECOM Site – was designated a redevelopment area and was the subject of contentious litigation. This site was a major eye sore for many years, but has since been demolished, cleaned-up and is awaiting redevelopment by a private company. This project will benefit the borough taxpayers by providing $1.75 million in redevelopment fees, along with the preservation of additional open space.
Fort Monmouth Redevelopment – is moving along too. Most of the Tinton Falls parcels are already out for bid. Some of the other projects include:
47,000 Square Foot Research Center – which offers another great opportunity to attract a technology company to our town.
The Tinton Falls Town Center – would be located near the Borough Hall and would bring additional shops and restaurants to the area.
New Child Education Center – my administration is working with the local board of education on using this 20,000 square foot building for classroom space for special needs students.
Additionally, new restaurants have moved to our community including Moose’s Tavern, which occupies a long-vacant site and Merri-Makers, which relocated to Tinton Falls after their business in Sea Bright was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
Emergency Management and Operations
Superstorm Sandy hit the borough hard, but fortunately we didn’t suffer the destruction and devastation of the shore communities. Thousands of residents however, did lose power for days on end. There were countless downed wires and fallen trees that wreaked havoc on our town.
Borough Hall was running on generators for days, but was fully operational. Immediately after the storm, public works crews removed over 100 trees from the roadways to make them passable; making good use of the equipment that we upgraded last year.
After Sandy, a strong Nor’easter swept in and brought lots of snow, which made matters worse. Just as most of the lights started to turn back on, we were set back with more fallen trees, downed wires, and power outages. On top of that, the Presidential election was around the corner and we had to make sure all polling locations were open and operational. Public Works spent many long days and weekends cleaning up the debris left by the two storms. They collected a staggering 35,000 cubic yards of brush and trees.
I spent many days and late nights with John Mack and David Boehning of the Office of Emergency Management, both in our operations room and out on the field. Tinton Falls prevailed because of the dedication of our first responders, our police, fire, first-aid, and public works crews. In fact, Tinton Falls was recently ranked #1 out of the 37 municipalities in Monmouth County by the Joint Insurance Fund; as they recognized our efforts for training, responsiveness, preparedness, and policies during Sandy.
The Strategic Role of Information Technology
We use technology to help us provide better service to the residents of Tinton Falls. We actively promote and use our Code Red Emergency Notification System.
We were one of the first towns in New Jersey to equip our snow plows with GPS devises. This allows us to track salting and plowing operations in real-time.
Before I was elected mayor, information technology was almost non-existent in Tinton Falls. Backup servers were not functioning, data was not centrally located, and security was not taken seriously.
I changed that and created the Office of Information Technology. Tinton Falls is one of the first towns in New Jersey to have such an office. Now, technology is used to innovate, to improve operations and reduce costs.
Some of the projects implemented include:
Cloud Computing – which gives employees access to the borough’s applications, data, email and other services via a secured and encrypted internet connection. We use Software of a Service (SaaS) to lower expenses, reduce energy consumption, and deliver applications to our employees regardless of their location.
Mobility – we use iPads, iPhones, and smart devices to promote a more collaborative and productive work environment.
SharePoint – we have a centralized document repository where employees can post, edit, search and share documents quickly and easily. This reduces the need for paper. In 2013, we plan on re-architecting our external Internet site with SharePoint, which will provide a better user experience and improve operational efficiencies.
Other upcoming projects include:
Automated Time and Attendance – which will reduce paperwork, overhead, and processing time and provide better metrics and performance over our current paper-based system.
Online Registration – that will allow residents to sign up and pay for activities online that are offered by our recreation department
Smart Irrigation Sensors – will be installed in our parks and accessible from our Cloud. They will save on water usage, and better enhance our parks.
Automated Monitoring of Wastewater Pumping Stations – will keep us informed of potential problems in real-time before they become a big issue.
Innovation and technology are very important in my administration and they are part of the strategic plan that I developed for the Borough of Tinton Falls. The use of technology is paving the way to reduce costs, increase revenues, and increase productivity.
Speaking of paving, our borough has approximately 80 miles of roads, which can’t be neglected as they require constant attention and maintenance.
Last year we put our new sewer line inspection camera to work, which allows an inside look of our infrastructure so we can be proactive with repairs.
Our See a Pothole Campaign is running strong again. Last year about 200 tons of asphalt was used to fill potholes and make road repairs.
We have over a mile of new sidewalks that have either been installed or in the works to provide safe pedestrian access at our busy areas.
We have invested millions to repave roads and more will be repaved this summer.
We cleaned up Hance Park; bringing it back to life after years of overgrowth, dying trees, and aged equipment. Now children can enjoy what this park has to offer.
We added much needed parking to Liberty Park II, creating 50 new spaces.
In 2013 we need to continue upgrading our parks with at least a quarter of a million dollar investment to make sure they continue to meet the borough’s growing needs.
Needed improvements to the Tinton Falls Recycling Center were made. Last year, between the money generating from recycling and the grants that we received, we brought in nearly 200 thousand dollars of revenue. To further encourage our residents to recycle, we should plan on paving the recycling area this year to provide easier and safer access.
We will be purchasing a new street sweeper in 2013 as a shared service with Eatontown. It is my hope that we provide funding for equipment to better repair potholes during the warmer months and better salt the roadways during the winter months.
Spending Money Wisely
We made many improvements over the past 4 years and we should continue this trend. You might ask, that’s great, but haven’t municipal taxes gone up a lot?
The answer is No. In fact, since becoming mayor, municipal taxes have remained low and are just keeping pace with the rate of inflation. Taxes used to go up 5 times this amount under the previous administration.
Last year, Tinton Falls had the 8th smallest average municipal tax bill of all 53 towns in Monmouth County. Tinton Falls also ranks well below the state average in municipal taxes.
Savings have been achieved by:
- Cutting department budgets by as much as 30%
- Increasing employee healthcare contributions
- Capping the amount of sick time payout to employees
- Reducing staff levels
- Restructuring debt and lowered borrowing costs
- Renegotiating contracts
- Focusing on providing core services
- Being proactive and not reactive
Let’s Keep Moving Forward
Tinton Falls is moving forward – let’s keep it that way.
Our municipal taxes used to go up on average over 11% a year, now they are matching inflation at around 2%.
Our roads used to be in poor shape; riddled with potholes, now we have an active road program.
Technology was once an afterthought, now it’s an asset that helps lower costs and increase productivity.
Emergency Management used to be nearly non-existent, now it’s properly funded and is the center of operations during emergencies.
Our equipment was aging and neglected; now it’s being upgraded and utilized.
Economic growth was just assumed, now it’s actively pursued and encouraged.
Communication used to reactive, now we proactively communicate with our residents.
The municipality and the schools hardly talked, now we work hard together.
Let’s keep working together and further improve the lives of the residents of Tinton Falls.
Let’s keep working together to put the Tinton Falls Taxpayers First.
It has been my pleasure and honor to speak with all of you tonight.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the Borough of Tinton Falls.