State of the Borough
State of the Borough Address 2016 Mayor Jeffrey Stephen Kasko, Janary 16, 2016
Thank you, Jack.
I am delighted to be here with everyone and be asked to deliver the State of the Borough address this morning. Thank you, President Tom Baird and members of the Lions Club for again putting this event together and serving us a delicious breakfast. I join so many residents throughout Haddonfield in giving thanks to the many individuals who volunteer their time and talent to organizations and events like this, which makes this community so great.
We have so much to be grateful for- and I must begin by telling everyone how grateful I am for the confidence, understanding, and trust that you place in me and my fellow commissioners to lead our town’s public affairs. The issues we faced in 2015 were not always easy to address- and we had some contentious moments and uncertainty to face- but I believe we worked together as a team and as a community to stay positive, focused, and patient in working on solutions, with the best interests of Haddonfield’s current and future residents in mind.
Before reporting on the state of the borough, I would like to recognize all those who have contributed to the decision-making and actions taken by me and the Board of Commissioners in 2015. This includes our borough employees and professionals- on whom we constantly rely on for expertise and assistance, the volunteer members of all of our borough boards and commissions- who bring diverse experiences and dedication to their responsibilities, and to residents who call and write and come to meetings and stop me at the Acme and corner me at Little League games to offer their opinions, their criticisms, and their advice. Don’t ever stop caring. Your input and your ideas help us make better and more informed decisions- and for that I am grateful.
At the beginning of 2015, we rang in the New Year with another great First Night celebration and a good deal of optimism that we were implementing worthwhile initiatives- including a library improvement project, a Grove Street reconstruction plan, fantastic partnerships to exhibit art with the Haddonfield Sculpture Trust and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, transitioning our Water and Sewer utility to a more capable operator, and including sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices in our town’s policies and practices.
But then I got call about a purchaser of the Bancroft School property. In what was to take a significant amount of time, effort and patience for the commissioners and residents of this town, we learned that there are some ideas and some approaches that none of us anticipated facing. I want to be very clear that I am keenly aware of the very real problem of substance abuse and the great need for treatment and rehabilitation services for people with addiction issues. It is, in my opinion, a noble endeavor to help people and improve their lives. Many of us, including me, know friends, relatives or co-workers who have struggled with addiction, some to a point that ended their lives. And we ought to find ways to help them overcome their troubles.
But, just like other essential services and facilities, we must ensure that they are offered in an appropriate setting and location that is best for the people being served and the community in which they are located. I truly believe that a Recovery Centers of America treatment center in the right South Jersey location will succeed in helping people throughout the region- including people who need help right here in Haddonfield.
That discussion, to site an RCA facility in a dense residential area, next to parkland and next to a high school, certainly energized a lot of people and triggered a lot of discussion. And while it continued the years-long debate about what would be built on the Bancroft site once the school moved to a new location, it also brought many of us together to find and support an alternative solution that could work for our town, for Bancroft, and for RCA. Maybe not a perfect plan that is going to please everyone, but a win-win-win solution that most of us, I believe, can support.
There were some other things going on last year, and I am happy to report that the state of our borough remains vibrant and strong. We continue to maintain a community that has so much going for it. Our downtown is alive and has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the region. Through the efforts of the Partnership for Haddonfield and other organizations, the downtown shopping district continues to host successful events throughout the year. In 2015, we even made the cover of NJ Monthly Magazine with a feature on “Our Favorite Downtowns.” Parades on Memorial Day and Independence Day continue to attract residents and people from around South Jersey. And our Christmas lights, decorations, and December events and promotions once again made our downtown a premier destination for holiday shopping.
Our public schools continue to excel in all areas, thanks to the efforts of our teachers, parents, students, coaches, administrators and Board of Education members. In 2015, Haddonfield Memorial High School was ranked in the top one percent of public high schools throughout the nation, and in the top one-half percent for science, technology, engineering and mathematics- or STEM- curricula with collaborative, project-based, and hands-on learning to prepare our students for the future. Our school music and performing arts programs are very strong and our athletic programs once again earned another ShopRite Cup for excellence, the only high school in New Jersey to win that distinction every year since its inception. Last year, Sectional, Group or State championships were won by Haddonfield student-athletes in Indoor Track, Swimming, Crew, Tennis, Outdoor Track and Field, Field Hockey and Cross Country, with appearances in South Jersey Group title games in Basketball and Baseball. And a very high percentage of 2015 HMHS graduates enrolled in college, with a number attending Ivy League and other top-ranked universities.
All around town, there was a lot happening throughout the year. We continued to attract new volunteer members to the Haddon Fire Company. We said goodbye to Dory Mann and welcomed Nancy McCrudden as the new Director of the Mabel Kay Senior Citizens Center. We finally saw construction and renovation of our public library begin. We welcomed the opening of the new Brandywine Senior Living facility. We installed new environmentally-friendly, solar-powered trash and recycling bins downtown. We hosted well-attended regional events like Odyssey of the Mind, the Antique Auto Show, the Lions Lizzie Haddon Basketball Tournament, the Arts and Craft Festival, and First Night. The Farmers Market and summer Rotary concerts were again held in the middle of downtown. Utility improvements were made by New Jersey American Water and road reconstruction projects were completed by the Borough and the County. And we thanked Chief Joe Riggs as he retired from his years of service as Fire Company Chief and congratulated Sam Trotman, recently sworn in as our new Fire Chief.
At this time, I would like to ask Deputy Mayor and Commissioner John Moscatelli to present his remarks on matters involving Public Works and Property in the Borough.
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Thank you, John.
At this time, I would like to give a brief report on the Borough’s finances.
As we have mentioned, in 2015, we closed on the sale of the Water and Sewer utility and received $28.5 million from New Jersey American Water. That payment is allowing us to completely pay off our Water and Sewer debt, as well as most of the town’s general municipal debt. Without those principal and interest payments, we were able to increase spending on Borough road improvements, contribute more to borough athletic field maintenance, and maintain all essential Borough services and programs.
We passed a 2015 municipal budget that totaled $16 million, without increasing property taxes- for the second year in a row. Spending was slightly increased, revenues remained strong, and we realized an almost 99 percent tax collection rate.
Our bond rating remained exceptional and our annual financial audit was extremely positive- with no findings or corrective actions needed.
Capital spending was maintained or increased for Borough properties, infrastructure, vehicles, equipment, and properties- including the Borough Hall and public library. These investments help insure that we keep pace with maintaining buildings, improving roads, and not putting off expenses for future commissioners to deal with.
Finally, I would like to mention the contract awarded to Waste Management in 2015, which will save us hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next five years, and the collective bargaining agreement reached with the police union, which will bring us some savings on the cost of benefits in the future.
Now, Commissioner Neal Rochford will give the Borough’s Public Safety report.
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Thank you, Neal.
In the year ahead, we will again have several important matters to address.
Along with the Library Board of Trustees, we will hire a new Library Director, see work completed on the Library building, and hold a grand reopening and rededication ceremony.
Along with the Planning Board, we plan to complete work on the subdivision and sale of the Boxwood Hall property and determine the future use of the rear portion of the site.
We also plan to finalize a new sidewalk improvement ordinance and implement a 2016 road program for repairing and repaving more roads throughout the Borough.
We will complete a 2016 Borough budget that is fiscally responsible and provides for quality municipal services, hopefully without a property tax increase.
We will unveil a new Borough website that is easier to use, more up-to-date and interactive, and provides residents with more capabilities to submit forms, applications, and payments online to the Borough.
And finally, we will work with the Planning Board and residents to implement the agreement we have struck with the owners of the Bancroft property and pass a Redevelopment Plan to govern the public and private uses of that property. That agreement and that plan must be implemented wisely and carefully, as they will affect current and future residents of Haddonfield for decades to come.
Thank you all for taking the time to attend this event and for giving me the great privilege of serving as mayor.
Announcement of Citizen of the Year
It is now my honor to announce Haddonfield’s 2016 Citizen of the Year. I would like to thank Lion Tom Quigley for coordinating this year’s selection process, Citizen of the Year selection committee members, and all those who submitted nominations.
This year’s Citizen of the Year:
Is a person who treats others with courtesy, respect, and genuine sense of friendliness and warmth;
Has unselfishly given to others, to several organizations, to this town, and to our country;
Is a person who is extremely organized and disciplined in everything they do;
Is a person who sometimes works quietly and does not seek recognition or the limelight;
Is a graduate of Haddonfield Memorial High School- but I won’t say which year.
Was involved in student activities and athletics while in high school;
Is a person who enjoys hobbies and playing tennis and golf;
Has been married to their spouse since graduation from college and is the parent of three children and numerous grandchildren.
Served as HMHS class reunion chairperson and president of the Haddonfield Alumni Society, with an instrumental role in the creation of the Society’s website and growth of the Society, which now serves more than 14,000 alumni;
Is a successful businessperson, joining and growing the family company, earning the respect and admiration of competitors, and serving as president of this industry’s New Jersey association;
Attended the United States Military Academy at West Point;
Graduated from the Infantry Officer School, the Ranger School, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia;
Served in the United States Army as an Army Ranger, Airborne with over 70 parachute jumps, a Green Beret, and an instructor- and three tours of duty in Vietnam and command of American soldiers in combat;
Was wounded in one of the largest battles of the Vietnam War, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor and a Purple Heart;
Received additional Bronze Stars, Meritorious Service Medals, Air Medals, Commendation Medals, and other service and campaign medals;
Was promoted to the rank of Colonel and retired after 20 years of service in the Army.
Grew, along with his brother, Haddonfield Lumber Company from one to 14 yards, and from sales of $50 million to more than $180 million;
Has served for years as a member of Haddonfield American Legion Post 38, including being elected Commander in 2005;
Is someone who, in the words of last year’s Citizen of the Year, Gene Kain, “deserves special thanks for all that he has done to keep the memory of my friend, Air Force Captain Ronald Bond, HMHS Class of 1965, alive” and “if I had ever been in a fox hole, it would have been an honor to share it with our 2016 Citizen of the Year!”
And finally, is someone I had to recuse myself from voting for, because he is a fellow Haddonfield Lion, which he currently leads as president;
It is my great privilege to ask Judie and other family members to join us at the head table and to introduce to all of you the 2016 Citizen of the Year. For God and Countryâ€¦.Tom Baird.