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Letter: Moorestown Mayor on 'State of Our Community'

Mayor John Button weighs in on a plethora of township issues, ranging from incoming ratables and reassessment to Open Space and the upcoming election.

To the editor:

As we enter October, with less than a month until the upcoming election, I wanted to share another township update that, hopefully, will be helpful in understanding what lies ahead for council in 2013 and beyond. In essence, here is a consolidated view of the “state of our community” at this time:

Savings, Ratables, Revenue

First and foremost, let’s look at our financial health and the tax outlook going forward. It should be noted that Moorestown’s tax rate is low relative to comparable towns in New Jersey. Over the last four years, Greg Gallo, Michael Testa and I have worked hard—with our council colleagues—to instill spending discipline in our town, reducing expenses, with minimal impact on services and, thus, minimizing the tax impact to our residents in this uncertain economy. Operational expenses in our town are lower now than they were in 2008.

Council has remained steadfast in our perception that enhancing the revenue side of the budget is also essential to stabilize and sustain taxes at a fair and equitable rate in the future. New businesses, large and small, are moving to town, and some are making substantial investments to do so. Examples of new businesses, as I have mentioned in previous updates, are new retail sites accompanying our exciting renovations at the mall, the Virtua Health and Wellness Center, the skilled nursing facility that has begun construction at Main and Marter Avenues, and the pending occupancy of InterArch in the “Little Acme.” Additionally, other expansions at some of our existing local businesses, such as Lockheed Martin, are providing new jobs. Please note there is also a prolonged effort to further develop our commercial areas both along Camden Avenue and on Main Street and conversations are ongoing with interested parties.

All of these are important, because growing our commercial ratable value (i.e. commercial property that provides tax dollars to our township) as a percentage of our overall ratables will help offset the burden to the homeowner. We have worked hard to make this town more business friendly and the feedback we have received is very positive in that regard. Our expectation is somewhere between 700 and 1,000 new full-time jobs will come to Moorestown over the next two years.

Additionally, and not to be confused with annual revenue generated through taxes, we will experience a one-time influx of $5-6 million dollars from sales of liquor licenses at the mall and East Gate shopping center. Current and future councils must be strategic in their planning and use of that money, so the influx of revenue helps provide for long-term tax relief and capital improvements.

Our debt is low relative to similar townships. As we were assessing the impact of new capital projects, such as the town hall/library, the rec center and athletic field upgrades, with our financial officer, one important factor was that in 2014 and 2019, our debt was scheduled for notable declines. Our bond rating (Aa2) is very strong and remains unchanged after our recent review, at a time when many other communities are experiencing downgrades or a negative outlook. This strong rating positions us well for beneficial borrowing costs on the recently approved capital projects. 

As you know, we are currently undergoing a reassessment, driven by the decline in the economy over the past few years and the escalating tax appeals the township has experienced. We anticipate the .

Although there are differences between governmental agencies and private businesses, there are principles involved in governing successfully that apply to both. Township manager Scott Carew is seeking to assure we have the right resources in place to manage and run our township effectively day in and day out. Together with Scott, we have been working to instill some management tools and processes that help achieve that goal. Instilling additional discipline in planning and financial reporting are two examples I can cite. Along with those changes, when Scott came aboard, council instituted an incentive compensation plan for him, similar to what is commonly used in the private sector, to reward exceptional behavior. Scott is committed to extending this plan to other key managers in the township, which we applaud. I am confident these changes will be helpful in years to come.

Thoughts on Open Space and the Council Race

It would be irresponsible for me to ignore the issue of open space that has received so much press and evoked so much emotion over the past few years. First and foremost, let me dispel the notion that the . That simply is not accurate. This fund was established and approved in three different referendums by Moorestown voters, for the express purpose of setting aside tax dollars to pay for needed projects within each of its intended uses. The logic behind utilization of this fund is to take advantage of it when projects surface that are deemed necessary and are eligible for funding from this source, as opposed to raising taxes to pay for those projects. The primary criterion is always deciding if the project is necessary. Once that decision has been made by council, the funding strategy is considered. As with a budget, when this fund is considered, council reviews the inflows and outflows to it under differing scenarios, looking several years out, before making its decision.  

Without getting into further detail, please note Moorestown has neither diminished its ability to acquire or develop open space nor has it diminished its ability to help fund other authorized uses. While certain individuals or groups have their own ideas about how things should be done, it is council’s responsibility to use all tools at its disposal to serve the needs of all of our citizens. All five members of the current council are committed to acquiring and preserving open space. The new council candidates, from both parties, have indicated the same. I would urge you to not let this topic be the deciding factor in your vote. The emotions surrounding this topic have obscured what should be real issues, such as how and when we will resolve the water system infrastructure issues (which are being addressed, in part, in the utility budget); what should be the strategy for the new one-time revenue we will be receiving; or what additional steps we can take to successfully further our economic development on Main Street and Camden Avenue.  

The following criteria will be important to me in determining my vote in the upcoming election: (a) What background/experience does the candidate have that is relevant to the town council role? (b) Does this candidate have a basic understanding of our township financial situation and key issues? (c) If the candidate is proposing specific actions, what are they proposing, how is it differentiating, and why should I have confidence that it will be constructive? (e) Will this individual be an effective communicator, both internally with our administration and with the public at large? (f) Do I perceive that this candidate will be an effective leader? (g) Do I perceive that the candidate’s commitment to the role will not be swayed by partisan politics?

Hopefully, you will find this information timely and helpful. Again, it is a distinct pleasure to serve on town council and, as always, for that opportunity I extend my sincere thanks.

Mayor John Button

______________________

Got something to say? Send letters to the editor to rob.scott@patch.com.

TrueRepublican October 12, 2012 at 12:09 PM
John, so glad you are not running for elections again. I wouldn't vote for you anyway. Your town hall costing us millions, putting us in debt again, your real estate tax hike called reassessment is just perfect during an election cycle... Great move for the party. Why don't you refund the Moorestown Taxpayers the $5,000,000.00 in booze money? Doesn't it belong to the taxpayers? Instead of giving the community back the
BlueDogDem October 12, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Mayor Button thank you for your service. Unlike President Obama and Senator Menendez, you know how to balance a budget and reduce spending. Residents of both parties, especially the children who are our future, are appreciative of all that you have done for our special town.
IM JUST... October 12, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I'm just wondering.....how will Mayor Jordan or Mayor Hines (god help us) be judged this time next year? will they be compared to Mayor Button? will they be propped up by their resepective parties as responsible for the fruits of the Button council like town hall and field ribbon cuttings...just wondering
TrueRepublican October 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Where are the facts here... Our party did not nominate John for re-elections. That speaks volumes, doesn't it.. He mismanaged the Town Hall Project from day one. How much was wasted, wasted before even a brick was placed? I hear around $4,500,000.00. As to the matter with John's spending , well you do the math - $ 25,000,000,00 million dollars on a building Moorestown does not need. So much for fiscal savings. John, seriously, we will not miss you. You did us a favor.
Poll watcher October 12, 2012 at 05:26 PM
So, who is this guy supporting? He left us at the edge of our seats brainstorming all day 'just wondering' who he is voting for? Will he support the republicans that worked hard to get him elected on '08 and vote Garwood, napolitano, palko? Or will he veer of course and vote for dems? Maybe Someone wants to give us a hint?
Pizza by the slice October 12, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Mr polls, I think some could read between the lines with his "g spot" on his bullet list. A guess is He will probably not vote for one republican and won't vote for one democrat. So it could leave four left with his three votes.. Hmm.. That may up for more "deep thoughts".. Hope people don't lose sleep over this.
HomeBrew October 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Mayor Button: Thanks for the "Voters' Guidance." Here's a couple more questions Moorestown voters should ask before casting ballots for town council: A) Which party abandoned you because of your role in the bullying, misguided effort to hijack the OS Fund to pay for a second, $1M+ syn-turf field at WBNorth? B) Which party had the most to lose from your subsequent decision to head an "independent" ticket for Council? C) Which party, fearing a split vote and a November loss, cut a deal: You abandon your Kamakazi Kampaign and the party green-lights Council's approval of a $1.5M bond for the unnecessary syn-turf field? Answer to A, B, and C: The Moorestown GOP. Thoughtful voters will recognize that the Moorestown GOP put its own interests ahead of the interest of the town, and stuck taxpayers with the $1.5M+ bill. Responsible voters will recognize that the Moorestown GOP does not deserve their votes.
Yah Mo B There October 15, 2012 at 03:12 PM
unfortunately it seemed that pretty much every candidate and sitting official was going ot get town hall done. Prior to that issue getting resolved who wasn't "for getting town hall done" that was either sitting in office or running. For the record I don't think it was necessary, but putting it in one persons lap is a bit of a stretch
HomeBrew October 15, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Slow night for Moorestown Council tonight, just a resolution to give "additional (non-pensionable) compensation" to Township Manager Scott Carew. How much? http://www.moorestown.nj.us/filestorage/207/154/2143/488/3250/2012_10_15_Agenda.pdf
Poll watcher October 15, 2012 at 08:18 PM
So we should vote for Garwood, napalitano, and Palko. There doesn't appear any positives to your argument not To vote GNP . Btw- the republicans did a great job on autumn day. Good to see runyan and mr chiacchio as well.
MtownLifer October 16, 2012 at 03:09 AM
C) is incorrect. First, the 'party' had no influence on J & C.s vote, and second J & C voted for turf bonding to prevent the raiding of the OS Fund (only needed 3 votes), something you should be thankful for, and not judgmental of.

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