Today, December 31, is the last day of my twelve year tenure as mayor of Bogota. A term I am proud of and that has given me tremendous insight into the functions and failures of government.
The most disturbing lesson I have learned is the danger that is posed by the growth of the Trenton bureaucracy and its consequence of destruction of our property rights, local control and the drain on our families' resources as we stagger under the burden of ever increasing taxes. and, ultimately, the erosion of individual liberty and freedom.
I would like to thank the Bogota governing body for their resolution in support of my record that follows my final speech. It was passed by the all Democrat council 6 to 0. Resolution text follows the speech.
Message from Mayor Lonegan:
My final message as Mayor of the Borough of Bogota holds good news for all taxpayers.
Today Bogota is on the strongest fiscal footing it has been on in years. Even while citizens around the state of New Jersey struggle under increasingly heavy local and state tax burdens, Bogota government is one of a handful that has not eaten up a larger and larger share of families’ budgets. Instead, Bogota government has learned to budget wisely and tighten its belt rather than resorting to unaffordable tax hikes or the lure of racking up expenses on the government credit card, for which taxpayers must pay the bill.
Bogota is an example of the standard all local governments, and their leaders, should strive to achieve. Spending over the last 12 years has remained constant, debt has remained stable, and municipal tax increases held far below the cost of living.
But the record of the past 12 years isn’t just about cutting spending and holding the line on behalf of citizens against tax hikes; it’s about making good fiscal decisions that deliver services efficiently and effectively. Our municipal buildings have been renovated, our parks upgraded and made safer, and our infrastructure remains in good repair. Winter storms are no match for Bogota because our snow removal is the best anywhere.
Ultimately, the credit for such success is due to the people of this town, who through the power of the vote took a strong stand for better government, instead of constantly bigger government. The record shows that our local government doesn’t just run on autopilot with elected officials in the cockpit.
The Bogota Council-passed the Taxpayer Protection Act that limited spending and forced a public referendum on new town debt, which allowed citizens a chance to approve the purchase of two new fire trucks and stop costly LOSAP pension benefits for volunteers. Our voters also chose to end eminent domain abuses by passing the first such local ordinance in the state of New Jersey by a historic 1408-293 vote.
The outsourcing of garbage collection, park maintenance, cleaning services, book-keeping and other functions has controlled spending on overhead. Quite simply, Bogota has managed its finances like families do everyday, and in doing so treated the taxpayer’s money with respect. Our good fiscal decisions are reflected in our bond rating, which is among the highest municipal credit ratings.
The value of making good decisions is made clear in our results. Today our DPW equipment is updated, including two new garbage trucks for recycling use, late-model dump trucks, and other updated equipment. Our police headquarters has been totally renovated and the communications equipment is state of the art. We have restored borough hall, built in 1895, to much of its original charm, while incorporating modern computer technology into borough operations. Bogota was the first town in the United States to allow taxpayers to pay property taxes online. Our website, www.bogotaonline.org, has been recognized as one of the most interactive websites in New Jersey.
Other successes include successfully lobbying for sound barriers along Route 80, funding the Olsen Park jogging track with grant money, acquiring open space funds to expand the Olsen Park complex, and expanding our senior center to handle the needs of our seniors. At the same time, we have considerably enhanced our Main Street commercial areas with new curbs, sidewalks, and street lights. All of these accomplishments increase our property values, which rest on the strength of our finances and infrastructure.
Bogota’s new municipal leaders face many challenges in the coming years from a state government openly hostile to the idea that people like the seven men and women who will make up Bogota’s governing body are capable of determining what is best for our town. The threats are real. Project Labor Agreements limit a town’s ability to get work done at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. State bureaucrats are taking control of local zoning and our neighborhood schools. And, new COAH mandates concerning Low Income Housing will limit Bogota’s ability to attract new ratables.
These attacks on local governance are just the beginning. In the face of rising pension costs, mandates from binding labor arbitration contracts, and a careless and hostile Trenton bureaucracy, the people of Bogota have their work cut out for them.
You will be under a lot of pressure to reverse the progress of the last 12 years. I urge you to consider these actions carefully. Twelve years ago, Bogota’s finances were a mess, debt was spiraling out of control, and homeowners were being taxed beyond their ability to pay. Those days are gone now and it is my hope that they never return.
Mayor McHale and I have had many differences over the years, but we also share some things in common and that’s a desire to serve the people and leave our town better than it was. While we may not agree on specific issues, he has my sincere wish for a successful administration and when he turns this gavel over to the next Mayor I hope he too can say he’s left our town a better place.
Thank you all, God Bless and a HAPPY New Year to everyone.
WHEREAS, Steven M. Lonegan was elected as Mayor of the Borough of Bogota on November 7, 1995 and served three consecutive terms;
WHEREAS, Steven Lonegan served the community unselfishly by offering his educational background and his expertise in order to execute improvements by redeveloping the infrastructure of the community at a minimum cost to its citizens;
WHEREAS, Steven Lonegan established schedules and procedures for all departments, submitted annual and capital budgets, and administered all phases of the budgetary process;
WHEREAS, Steven Lonegan has examined, analyzed and forecasted trends of municipal finance and made recommendations with reports to the taxpayers for maintaining fiscal stability;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Council members of the Borough of Bogota, on behalf of its citizens, extend to Steven M. Lonegan, their gratitude and appreciation for his years of dedication, as Mayor, to the Borough of Bogota.
Steve Lonegan is the Mayor of Bogota, NJ, and Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity – New Jersey. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation) are committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process. He is a prolific writer, having been published in newspapers and blogs. He just published a book, Putting Taxpayers First: A Blueprint for Victory in the Garden State, that discusses the impact of the Trenton government on the well being of the taxpayers of the state. He offers solid and workable solutions. Learn more at lonegan.com.