Caso will serve until Nov. 3, 2009, when a special election will be held for the rest of Criscione's term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2010.
At the meeting, Caso said that he has lived in Guttenberg for 15 years and wants to give back to his community. He works in the brokerage industry, dealing with stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
About the other nominees for the seat, he said, "They had two [other] great people to do it along with me. I feel very honored about it."
The other candidates were Robert Tholen and John Habermann. Tholen is the former superintendent of schools and former principal of the Anna L. Klein school. He currently sits on the town's Planning Board. Habermann is a longtime member of the Board of Education.
Tholen asked the council to not consider him for the position due to personal issues, but said that he would continue to serve on the Planning Board.
Habermann has more than two years left in his term as the school board's vice president. During the portion of the meeting in which the public speaks out, mayoral candidate Vasilios Scoullos asked Caso how he felt about corruption, mentioning the past extortion conviction of former mayor David Delle Donna.
Scoullos also wanted to know if Caso's attendance record would be similar to his predecessor, Criscione, who missed more than two months of meetings due to his ill mother.
"I'll put it to you this way," Caso said. "I just took that oath, and being a citizen and a former service man, I take my duties very highly. And if that means being here until 12 at night even though I have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and go to work, I will be here at 12 at night every meeting," said Caso.
Amended budget Guttenberg is still unsure of what its final 2008-2009 budget will look like as they wait for state aid numbers. But the council voted to insert the costs for certain projects into their temporary budget.
The projects include a $600,000 bond that will refund a tax appeal awarded to the Galaxy Mall, and a $25,000 bond to be put toward improvements on 71st Street. The temporary budget also lists grants that have been given for costly projects.
Anna Delle Donna, who was convicted along with her husband, was at the meeting. She told the council that they were spending too much money. She said that instead of raising the budget, they should cut back on costs, like employee benefits.
Councilman Gerald Drasheff said, "This ordinance that we just passed ... puts the state on notice because we have some unknowns in our budget, and we need a little bit more room than what the [state spending] cap would normally allow."
Drasheff explained that 70 percent of the township's workforce is unionized, and that their benefits cannot be changed with the "strike of a pen." He said that the town is in negotiations with the Police Department's union since their contract expired last year, so he doesn't know the final numbers for police costs.
Mayoral candidate Hernando Alvarado asked Drasheff, who is also running for mayor, if he was blaming the police for a possible increase in taxes. Drasheff said that he wasn't blaming the police, but that a salary increase for them could raise taxes or result in cutting services.
Public speaks out
In the public portion, Alvarado suggested that cutbacks could begin with the council itself. He said that the combined council and mayor's salaries, about $35,000, should be used to alleviate taxes.
He said that all of the council members were set with their careers and questioned whether they really need the part-time salaries they receive. Council members receive a little more than $4,000, while the mayor receives a salary around $6,000.
Councilwoman Donna Florio responded, "When you become mayor, you can give it back."
The council will now be looking at which yellow curbs they can shorten in order to give the town a few extra parking spaces.
Town Attorney Charles Daglian said that it is legal to do so, as long as they change it through a resolution.
Comments can be sent to TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.