Saturday, May 30, 2009

Highlands Budget Review Advisory Committee: Citizens working together with government

This year marks the creation of the first citizen budget review committee in Highlands. I created this committee due to the economic pressures on Highlands Borough and their effect upon our ability to meet the requirements of the budget levy caps. These caps are imposed by the state legislature and carry with them a consequence of state government takeover if they are breached. My goal as your mayor has been to avoid such a takeover and comply with the budget levy caps by all means available to us.

Unfortunately in 2008 our only available method of complying with these levy caps was to eliminate commercial garbage collection. This resulted in a layoff of some Borough employees. While this legislative action by the 2008 Governing Body has been successful in helping us meet the levy cap requirements this year, I would like to avoid the need for such drastic action in the future. Thus, the budget has been a focal point for me during my term as Mayor and a focal point of the 2009 Borough Council as well.

The Budget Review Advisory Committee is comprised of Highlands Borough citizens who have a financial background, or who feel they can make suggestions toward reducing budget line items and the resulting financial burden on Borough taxpayers. The Advisory Committee is charged with suggesting both short term and long term goals to assist the Governing Body in making the very difficult decisions required to avoid future unexpected cuts in services and loss of jobs by Borough employees. The final decisions required to implement changes proposed by the committee must be made by the Highlands Borough Council to become effective. If study is needed to determine steps required for implementation, expenditures must be approved by the Borough Council or the Executive Office of the Mayor depending upon the amount required.

I am hopeful that the committee will focus on items such as health insurance costs, legal expenses and engineering expenses. I am also hopeful that the group will examine available technology options toward streamlining services and reducing the need for additional employees to deliver increased services. However, the committee can also recommend ideas for producing revenue to the Borough which might offset expenses and avoid future tax increases. Government works best when it is representative of the people we serve. By participating in this advisory committee, Borough citizens will be directly communicating with their representatives. In this way necessary change will not be dictated, but will evolve through an open dialogue.

The Budget Review Advisory Committee is a groundbreaking tool toward streamlining the Highlands Borough Budget and creating a fair tax burden that permits an affordable quality of life in Highlands. All citizens are invited to participate. Information regarding how to become a participant can be obtained by contacting the Borough Hall offices.