Township officials have planned a "bond-fire" to light a match to a facsimilie of the last municipal bond that was financed by general taxpayer funds.
The public is invited to the public burning on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.
The Township Committee will host the celebratory “bond-fire” in the rear parking lot at the township municipal building at 1 Collyer Lane. A press release from the township government said the paper will be burned as a symbol of a successful fiscal policy.
Township officials, including Township Administrator Bruce McArthur, have long been talking about the approach of that moment. In August, McArthur said the coming end of municipal debt helped the township hold onto its triple AAA bond rating, even as the federal government was downgraded to an AA bond rating by Standard and Poors last summer.
The remaining debt after Nov. 1 will payments on open space and farmland preservation land investments. However, those bonds are financed through a separate open space tax, and do not come out of the general fund of the annual municipal budget, McArthur has explained at multiple public meetings during the last year.
“In this time of historically high debt at the state and national level, it is a tribute to the policies and operation of Bernards that we can eliminate both our short-term and long-term unfunded debt,” said Deputy Mayor Mary Pavlini, a member of the all-Republican Township Committee.
“Many municipalities in the state are having to cut essential services in order to free up budget money to pay their debt service, or else they are having to raise property taxes," said Pavlini, a candidate for re-election.
As of 2012, the will have no debt service obligation other than open space bonds financed from a dedicated source, she said. "That’s a huge savings for our taxpayers.”
Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said in a release from the township that the debt reductions come at a time when the state has been increasing its unfunded mandates to local government and also requiring increased contributions to pensions and healthcare.
Even so, McArthur said, the municipal tax levy, or amount of the municipal budget to be raised by taxes, remains at the 2005 level.
Committeeman John Carpenter, who also is seeking re-election, cited the township’s commitment to maintaining services at the same time.
“By steadfastly adhering to a ‘pay as you go’ policy and paying down our principle every year we have maintained stability with our finances. Bernards has not had to lay off or furlough employees or forego necessary capital purchases."
Carpenter said the township still is run with the hightest of standards. "Quite simply, we applied the same conservative fiscal approach that we would use with our own personal finances: don’t spend all the money!”
The township still maintains adequate financial reserves, according to township officials. Township Committeewoman Carolyn Gaziano said, “The combination of zero unfunded debt, prudent reserves and efficient low cost operations has resulted in us maintaining our AAA bond rating at a time when many government entities are being downgraded.”