Branchburg Democratic Committee
PO Box 5056
Branchburg NJ 08876
Before COVID-19, public health operations of local municipalities
were primarily behind the scene. According to the World Economic
Forum, COVID-19 is part of a “pattern of increasingly frequent
epidemics that have coincided with globalization, urbanization and
climate change.” I foresee the public health of the community
becoming a more important part of mainstream operation of
municipalities and requiring more collaboration with health care
There needs to be technological and procedural infrastructure put in
place to support public health departments in “contact tracing”.
Though the concept of contract tracing is not new, there are many
technologies available that should be considered with an emphasis
on protection of people’s privacy It has been found that a combination
of public and private organizations that have the trust of local
communities is helpful in facilitating cooperation from community
members in contact tracing.
Understanding the revenue picture will be one of the greatest
challenges in the upcoming year. It’s difficult to see past the
current crisis, but leaders need to think about tomorrow while
managing through today. Municipalities will need to make
difficult decisions about how to prioritize spending to balance
the budget. We need to assess revenue streams. What
revenues are at risk at short-term and long-term? We need to
develop forecasts and estimates, and to incorporate estimates
into the current budget and five-year projections.
Short-term solutions to address budget shortfalls include:
• Reprioritizing and Postponing projects
• Leveraging loan programs and borrowing money
• Reducing discretionary spending
• Using the reserve balance – If the township has authority
to use reserve balance, consider this.
The long-term solution should focus on increasing revenue by
broadening the tax base while exploring creative ways to
reduce expenses without compromising the services to the
We need to strike a balance between access to the river parks and preventing overcrowding and misuse/abuse of river parks. This applies not only river parks but also all other types of open space activities.
We will explore the right balance in 2 broader areas (Policy/Enforcement and Infrastructure)
The first one is that whether our existing regulations that cover river parks have sufficient safe guards on misuse/abuse, citizens safety, impact on inter-related regulations, capacity limits, restrictions if any on other recreational activities, signs requirements, regulations and powers for police and park rangers, access times etc.
Infrastructure considerations include signs, maintenance, park rangers, utilization metrics, parking lots, operational/investment budgets, overcrowding, access points etc.
I believe that when we are challenged by the unforeseeable, it may validate the decisions and systems that have previously been put in place and expose weaknesses. How you react and are prepared is all about the team, trust, transparency and leadership. The granular work that is done everyday in the municipalities , not unlike any business entity, must be forward leaning. Willingness to accept change and adapt to the information is imperative. Presenting a calm, steady, daily approach and communicating the information to the public reinforces trust between the public and the municipal officials. Many municipalities will be taking a hard look at their teams, procedures and methods of communication and making adjustments and changes as needed. Our citizens and the municipal team, rose to the challenge to navigate the township through this crisis.
Our township has a AAA bond rating. Fewer than 3% of New Jersey municipalities have this rating. Our conservative fiscal approach to spending, smart investing in our township and balanced approach to development has equated to stable tax revenues and a solid balance sheet. We are seeing reduced hotel occupancy tax revenues and we expect this to continue into 2021, however it will rebound as the economy continues to open and business travel resumes. We will continue our budgetary approach, but will be prepared to adjust as the facts on the ground change.
Active open space access is very important to the me and is a large part of the fabric of our town. I always take a light handed approach so as to not overreact and to allow Branchburg residents access to our river parks in a time what they probably needed outdoor activities the most. We put together a regional weekly conference call to coordinate and communicate with the surrounding municipalities and the county regarding river access. We are currently engaging the public and professionals to examine options to reduce this abuse in the future. The most important aspect is to allow the taxpayers of Branchburg uninterrupted access to their open space. Some action items under review are : the number and size of the the parking areas, better signage defining the rules of use, the feasibility of creating a hybrid park ranger position/ positions to better monitor theses areas and issue citations and use permits. We will have the policy revisions in place before next spring.