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Montgomery Township Committee 2011

MONTGOMERY TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE CANDIDATES QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM 

EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for Montgomery Township Committee to questions presented by The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area in cooperation with The Princeton Packet.  The candidates were allowed to vary the length of their answers to the three questions but were given a word limit for the total.

Candidates – Vote for one (three-year term) 

Mark Petraske – Democrat, Attorney and partner, Buckley & Theroux, LLC, in Montgomery. Website: www.formontgomery.org

Rich Smith – Republican,  Regional Manager for DPR Construction, a national construction management firm. Website: www.gopmontgomery.org

What would you do to make Montgomery desirable and affordable for residents without school children, to enable them to continue living here?

Mr. Petraske: In these difficult financial times there has to be a view towards upping the revenue from commercial residents. Promoting commercial taxpayers in locations that are appropriate, without destroying the rural feel should be our focus.  This serves to keep taxes lower for all residents. The rural nature of the town is also what makes this town highly desirable and minimizes the need for spending on infrastructure.

Mr. Smith:  My wife Valerie and I have lived in many different parts of the country, but we chose to stay in Montgomery for the past 15 years to raise our family.  It’s a desirable community with a fantastic school system and great people willing to work together to make good things happen.  Montgomery residents like the town’s community-mindedness, rural feel and open space, and look forward to enjoying the amenities of Skillman Park – a project that brings money into Montgomery.  Government cannot solve every problem or need; we need to be careful with taxpayers’ money.  Everyone has been affected by this economic downturn and if elected I will make sure that our taxes are spent only on things that are absolutely essential.  To keep Montgomery affordable we must hold down taxes and cut spending, thereby helping people makes ends meet. 

In these difficult financial times, which township services do you consider to be “core services” that should be preserved in Montgomery, and which do you think should be eliminated or consolidated with the county or nearby municipalities?

Mr. Petraske: Core services are those that are necessary for the maintenance of our infrastructure, and that serve the safety of our community.  Some services have already been consolidated like he health department and animal control.  There is a study looking at the consolidation of police services on a countywide level.  This would have police dispatched to the Montgomery from Hillsborough.  Hurricane Irene recently demonstrated that access during times of extreme emergency is next to impossible.  In addition, there has seen a dramatic increase in the number of calls for service from 14,700 in 2009 to 20,000, in 2010.  I do not believe that it is acceptable to compromise the safety of our residents on a promise from the county of unproven savings.  The township has a responsibility to maintain our roads without pushing the costs to the future with bonding.  I would look at consolidating inspection services, and consolidating the municipal court may be feasible, if revenue is not lost.

Mr. Smith:  Township services should not be eliminated or consolidated just for the sake of economics; rather we need to be smart and strive for efficiency while maintaining the quality of core services such as public safety and public works.  We should never compromise public safety, but we must evaluate all possible solutions to the budgetary issues we face.  The current Township Committee decision to consolidate our municipal court with Hillsborough’s is a great example of how this type of shared service can work for everyone’s benefit.

Do you think that the cuts that have taken place in funding for the library, EMS, and maintenance of open space were justified by the size of savings to the municipal budget; or do you believe the township committee should restore the previous level of support to these areas?

Mr. Petraske:  We spent a lot of money on legal fees, consultants, and negotiating for the sale of Skillman Village.  We own this land as a town, and are buying it as county taxpayers and we do not know the terms of the agreement. When these costs are viewed with respect to the funding cut from EMS, the library, and open space, there is no justification for the cuts.  The township funding for EMS was significantly cut this year with no real explanation.  If this service is not supported we will face the need to have full time coverage at a much greater expense.  As a town these are the services we are expected to provide to all of our residents.

Mr. Smith:  No new cuts were made to the Library or EMS contributions this year; rather cuts from prior years were continued and were made with the support of both political parties.  While difficult, the cuts were justified.  In this tough economy, municipal government must make hard choices.   Both the Library and EMS are funded by outside sources.  The Township’s contributions are basically donations that should continue at appropriate levels, but should not be increased at the expense of other services, such as laying off a police officer for example.  Expenditures were appropriately cut across the board to keep taxes stable and yet keep core essential services.

              

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