VINELAND — Mayor Ruben Bermudez has appointed seven members to the special budget advisory panel he promised to form while running for office last year.

The Mayor’s Budget Advisory Committee is designed to provide what Bermudez said is more public input into developing the city’s fiscal plan.

“I believe one of the keys to moving Vineland forward is finding ways to maximize the participation of Vineland residents in the city’s decision making process,” Bermudez said.

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Residents appointed to the committee are:

* Joseph S. Donchez, chairman and owner of American Transport Systems.

* Sandra Velez, assistant manager of the Vineland Housing Authority.

* PNC Bank employee Anthony Thomas.

* David Schad, a certified public accountant and partner in the Schad & Schad accounting firm.

* American Transport Systems President Stephen Donchez.

* John Zimmerman, a teacher with the School For the Deaf in West Trenton, Mercer County.

* Larry Bertacchi, founder and former owner of Bertacchi’s La Casa.

City Council authorized the forming of the committee last week.

According to the authorizing resolution, the committee will “assist the mayor should he deem prudent in preparing the annual operating budget in advance of his submitting the budget to City Council.” Committee members will serve until Dec. 31.

The resolution states that the committee is formed for “advisory purposes only,” and will not serve any kind of municipal government function. Committee members will only be allowed to review documents that can be released in accordance with the state’s Open Public Records Act.

“While the mayor and City Council clearly set the budget, my goal is to strengthen public confidence that the city is acting as a wise steward of taxpayer resources,” Bermudez said.

Having increased public participation in that process will provide a better understanding of the “tradeoffs” needed to maintain essential government services while “not crushing taxpayers with increasing financial demands,” he said.

Bermudez won the mayor’s seat in a Dec. 18 runoff election, ousting incumbent Robert Romano. Bermudez criticized Romano’s administration during the campaign for failing to live up to its promise of providing transparent city government.

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