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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Questions for Council Part #1


  This is the first post in a series of question asked by Bogota Blog NJ to all four candidates running for the two available seat for Bogota Borough Council. The order in which the answers appear for the first question is determined by how the answers were received by Bogota Blog NJ. After that the first answers will be by a different candidate.   I hope this is a fair, informative, and useful series of posts to be held over the next few days. There will be two questions with answers per post per day.
  The Candidates are Councilwoman Wanda Uceta, School Board Member Christopher Keleman School Board Member John Mitchell, Councilman Arthur Konigsberg.  Election Day is Tuesday 5-Nov. polls will be open starting at 6:00a and close at 8:00p

Question #1
- The latest Borough budget has had to have another tax increase, and little reduction in spending.  Partly because of issues  that can not be controlled.  What sort of measures can a small town , like Bogota, do to plan for emergency situations, and still stay with in it’s means.

Wanda Uceta
As a resident I am concern about taxes and spending.  We had a terrible year in 2012,that caused our taxes to rise.  We had a “Super Storm Sandy” which caused significant damage to our, streets, curbs borough buildings and actually destroyed our DPW building.  We currently have two major law suits that are still in litigation and like other municipalities, with the issues of falling home prices, we were faced with a large number of residential tax appeals the town had to give back at least half a million in appeals last years.
 Through the hard work of our town’s OEM Coordinator we are on track to recoup almost $400,000.00 through FEMA. That will have a big impact on our taxes.
Although we cannot predict or stop the next storm from hitting us this is what we can do to be ready.  We need to trim our shade trees and remove dead trees which can cause damage to our homes and create power outages.  Bogota over the years never build a surplus and I think is time to start building one for a “Rainy Day”.  We also need to look at others communities for joint purchasing agreements and co-ops so we can reign in spending.  Grants when available are and excellent way to fund projects without taxpayer dollars.  Ever Since I have been a councilwoman I have overseen grants totaling over a million dollars to repair our streets, sewers and curbs, fix ours parks and provide free emergency lifesaving equipment for the fire department.

Christopher Keleman
A small town like Bogota needs to have an emergency plan, such like a plan that our schools prepare in an event of an emergency.  This plan needs to be rehearsed not by only our law enforcement, first responders and volunteers, it also needs to be drilled with our schools and residents.  We need to get a neighborhood internal emergency group together, perhaps five people from each voting district to start a group thinking process in order to start the process.  This is a “non cost” get together that can only produce something positive.  New faces are important, I would recommend that we have a fireman, first aid member, rescue squad personal, police officer and council member host this group of chosen residents who want to get involved.  Something is better than nothing.

John Mitchell
Since we are not able to prepare 100% for the unforeseen things that are out of our control  such as super storm Sandy we must be very aware of our spending every day.  Some consolidation of services should be considered in many areas one could be in the area of administrative costs.  Bringing back the recycling program to our own DPW is a revenue stream we previously gave away. In order for us to always be prepared we need to do the work continually to make our town more fiscally responsible.

Arthur Konigsberg
As a Bogota resident & Council member I am concerned about tax increases.There is a direct link between providing services & our tax bills.Additionally the past year was quite a difficult one for our town;the national mortgage crisis caused a devaluation of home values, which led to a huge spike in tax appeals. Defending two law suits is very costly.Storm damage from Sandy was quite extensive.We did a reassessment of the borough’s properties,which will cause a  big drop in future tax appeals.We also will be getting about $400,000.00 from FEMA for storm damage reimbursement.We join with other towns for joint purchases of needed equipment & utilize grants whenever possible to reduce taxpayer expense for such required areas as sewer,curbing, street repaving,park improvements for the benefit of our children & residents,&  better equipment for our valued volunteers.We also examine the merger of services with other towns to see if savings can be obtained to further reduce the tax burden.The merger of our  municipal court with Little Ferry’s has been quite successful in reducing costs & a backlog of cases.

Question #2                                      

-  For a large number of years Parents, Students , and Staff have asked for an update of the Junior /Senior High School. Now that the electrical, and windows has been addressed  how can the  items such as the Bathroom, as well as the Classroom themselves be updated and improved.

Christopher Keleman
Well, the bathrooms in the High School are already under way.  At this time, the bathroom off the gymnasium has been gutted with new plumbing, walls, ceilings and fixtures in process.  It should only take a few more weeks to complete.  The window and door project is already done and they look beautiful.  We should save a lot of money this year with our heating bill.  Last year, we had new lockers in the H.S. installed, walls & classrooms have been painted and things are looking pretty sharp.  By the end of this school year, either our gymnasium or auditorium will have a/c for our students and staff.  BHS has come a long way in the past year, much more is to come.  With our Superintendent of Schools contract extended until 2017, we finally have a chief administrator who has an interest in improving our buildings.  Rome was not built in a day, but it did have a start!

John Mitchell
Many improvements are under way and I am proud to have been a part of these school upgrades while serving the children of Bogota as a sitting board member on the Board of Education.

Arthur Konigsberg
The town council has no control over the Board of Education budget.About 65% of the town taxes go to the school’s budget. Any repair or improvements are probably addressed by a separate Board of Education” building & grounds” committee.

Wanda Uceta
The School Board is a separate entity of which the Borough Council has no or little input. I am certain that they have a buildings and grounds committee that will be able to address their building and repair concerns.
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