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Plainsboro Township Committee 2010

NOVEMBER 2010 PLAINSBORO TOWNSHIP
COMMITTEE CANDIDATES QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Polls are open in Plainsboro from 6 AM to 8 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for Plainsboro 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 their answers.

Candidates – Vote for two (three year term)

Anthony Cook - Republican, retired. Website: www.CookAndSutter2010.com

Neil Sutter - Republican, Sr. Business Systems Analyst. Website: www.CookAndSutter2010.com

Michael Weaver (incumbent) - Democrat, Deputy Chief Technology Officer OIT - State of New Jersey (Retired). Website:http://www.plainsborodemocrats.org

Ed Yates (incumbent) - Democrat, Senior Project Manager, PMP. Website: http://www.plainsborodemocrats.org

The new municipal tax cap of 2% increases the constraints on next year's budget. How would you address these constraints?

Mr. Cook:
New Jersey residents are sick and tired of paying the highest property taxes in the nation. I believe in leaner government at all levels and more voter control over property taxes. The new 2% tax cap is a step in the right direction but it is not the final destination. We should start learning right now from each other about managing with fewer resources, a situation that's likely to continue. In this economic climate, people know they need to be smarter, more frugal and make tougher choices in their private lives. They know they can't fool themselves anymore, so they have much less tolerance for politicians who want to do that in our public lives. With our current economic situation we must get back-to-basics and pick leaders who listen. By cutting costs and finding ways to save we must build a better budget and I am willing to work with the other committee members to achieve this goal.

Mr. Sutter:
Any budget is made up of the income side and the expense side. On the income side, I would evaluate our current tax assessment process. Commercial property is a significant component of our tax base and helps offset homeowner property taxes. I would work towards making sure our commercial property is being utilized to its maximum potential so that it can have the best possible impact on our budget. On the expense side I would look at all of our largest contracts to ensure they are appropriate in scope and duration. I would pursue opportunities to improve future contracts to generate cost savings for the residents of Plainsboro. I would implement technological solutions to modernize and improve operations in the town. There are many efficiencies to be gained that can save time and money as well as improve service. In my current position as a Sr. Business Systems Analyst, I work on making various insurance business units paperless to accomplish more at a lower cost.

Mr. Weaver:
Governor Christie and the State Legislature enacted a 2% statutory cap for annual property tax levy increases which will result in combined revenue losses and a tax levy cap on municipal spending. This places all municipalities in the State including Plainsboro, in an untenable position, making it extremely difficult to comply with the cap while dealing with several cost drivers outside of local government control. The Governor promised to push for enactment of his proposed “tool kit” to help municipalities manage under the statutory cap but it has not yet been enacted.

The Plainsboro Township Committee has already passed a resolution which Ed Yates and I supported and we have been actively calling on the Governor and the Legislature to immediately pass a more effective “tool kit” with real reforms and comprehensive mandate relief. We requested critical changes in the following areas: statutory interest arbitration reforms, civil service reforms, public employee pension and benefits, disciplinary procedures, school and special district elections, municipal revenue protections (eg: Energy Tax) and cap exceptions for certain mandated costs.

While Plainsboro has been consistently recognized as one of the best financially managed municipalities in the State, without enactment of real reforms such as these, Plainsboro along with other municipalities will have little choice but to implement significant program and service cuts within its discretionary spending budget which could adversely impact our citizens.

Mr. Yates:
Recently, Governor Christie proposed and the State Legislature enacted legislation for a 2% statutory cap on annual property tax levy increases which will result in combined revenue losses and a tax levy cap on municipal spending. This places all municipalities in the State including Plainsboro, in an untenable position, making it extremely difficult to comply with the cap while dealing with several cost drivers outside of local government control. As part of the package, the Governor promised to push for enactment of his proposed “tool kit” to help municipalities manage under the statutory cap but it has not yet been enacted.

The Plainsboro Township Committee has already passed a resolution which I have supported and I have been actively calling on the Governor and the Legislature to immediately pass a more effective “tool kit” with real reforms and comprehensive mandate relief. I requested critical changes in the following areas: statutory interest arbitration reforms, civil service reforms, public employee pension and benefits, disciplinary procedures, school and special district elections, municipal revenue protections (eg: Energy Tax) and cap exceptions for certain mandated costs.

Even though Plainsboro has been consistently recognized as one of the best financially managed municipalities in the State, without enactment of real reforms such as these, Plainsboro along with other municipalities will have little choice but to implement significant program and service cuts within its discretionary spending budget which could adversely impact our citizens.

Plainsboro shares services with Cranbury, West Windsor, Middlesex County and others. What are the advantages and disadvantages of sharing with a multiplicity of governing bodies?

Mr. Cook:
Local governments have the challenge of needing to accomplish seemingly endless objectives with decidedly limited resources. The traditional options for governments faced with such a dilemma have been either to cut services or increase revenue through higher taxes. Plainsboro needs to reduce costs and shared services would assist in the convergence and streamlining of the Township's functions to ensure that they deliver the services required of them as effectively and efficiently as possible. As a Law Enforcement Coordinator to the Office of Emergency Management I have participated in several Countywide emergencies and drills. During these events, I learned firsthand the advantages of using shared services to accomplish a task that would have been impossible for a single township to bear. Shared services is not without obstacles however, and the top challenges are boundary disputes, gaps in service provision, communication difficulties with all the different agencies involved and how to handle complaints over service. These obstacles can be overcome by effective leaders that maintain up-to-date mutual aid agreements with all the governing bodies involved.

Mr. Sutter:
Shared services can provide many benefits to a municipality with respect to cost savings and quality of service. If you can combine the efforts into a larger group, your cost per unit will go down. Additionally, an entity that provides service for several others, can become more experienced and be more efficient than if the entity worked on its own. The disadvantage of shared services is it can be resource intensive to negotiate these deals, and each town might have different goals, requiring compromise. If another town provides the service, you don't have the control over the effectiveness of their performance. If you are providing the service, you have a lot of people to answer to and could run into trouble trying to satisfy all of the parties. As with most relationships, they must be actively managed and monitored to ensure the objectives and service levels are being met.

Mr. Weaver:
By leading in the effort to participate in shared and cooperative services with the County and surrounding towns, Plainsboro has been recognized as a leader in community planning and consolidated cost controls.

Plainsboro has already implemented the Plainsboro/Cranbury court system, West Windsor/Plainsboro animal control agreement and the Government/Educational Television Station shared with the School District and West Windsor. As a result, Plainsboro has been able to achieve more effective delivery of services with reduced operational, purchasing and insurance costs for our taxpayers but requires greater municipal coordination. This has enabled Plainsboro to consistently achieve one of the lowest municipal tax rates and one of the highest bond ratings in the County. Ed Yates and I support continued creative approaches to cost reduction, to ensure quality services at lowest possible cost. These and other initiatives represent important sources of critical revenue and services benefiting Plainsboro.

Mr. Yates:
Plainsboro has been recognized as a leader in community planning and consolidated cost controls by leading in the effort to participate in shared and cooperative services with the County and surrounding towns.

Plainsboro has already implemented the Plainsboro/Cranbury court system, West Windsor/Plainsboro animal control agreement and the Government/Educational Television Station shared with the School District and West Windsor. As a result, Plainsboro has been able to achieve more effective delivery of services with reduced operational, purchasing and insurance costs for our taxpayers but requires greater municipal coordination. This has enabled Plainsboro to consistently achieve one of the lowest municipal tax rates and one of the highest bond ratings in the County. These and other initiatives represent important sources of critical revenue and services benefiting Plainsboro. Mike Weaver and I support continued creative approaches to ensure quality services at the lowest possible cost.

What will be the impact on Plainsboro of the new medical center, and how will you address the changes that occur?

Mr. Cook:
As a former Traffic Safety Officer I know one of the greatest challenges facing Plainsboro with the new medical center is the impact it will have on our roadways and traffic. If elected, I will take the lead for Plainsboro in reviving the Penns Neck Area Bypass/Route 1 Improvement Project. This project would eliminate some traffic signals along Route 1 and substantially reduce the congestion between South Brunswick and Lawrence. It will have an impact on Plainsboro in terms of economic recovery and state recovery. We can then utilize traffic calming techniques to deter out-of-town drivers from using our neighborhoods as short cuts. Then we need to create a plan to preserve our roads in good condition. Our taxes go up every year, so you'd expect our services to go up as well, but very little attention is paid to our existing roadways. This lack of accountability for road maintenance is costing us big in extra repairs and vehicle wear.

Mr. Sutter:
Overall, the new medical center will have a positive impact on Plainsboro, as it will bring jobs to the township. While the township will receive no direct tax income from the jobs that are moved here, I would look for ways to bolster our income through secondary means. This would include providing support to the local businesses as well as attracting new business that are a good fit for our community and match the needs of the people working at or interacting with the hospital. This may mean improved or more places for people to eat or shop. By supporting the local businesses, the value of commercial real estate will increase which will offset residential property taxes. Additionally, I would expect a modest increase in housing demand, as people who work at the hospital and affiliated entities may consider moving to Plainsboro to live. This will help improve the demand for our housing, and increase property values for residents.

Mr. Weaver:
As a result of a comprehensive economic study conducted in advance by the municipality, we anticipate a significant net positive impact for Plainsboro as a result of the Medical Center relocation. Plainsboro expects several millions ($$) in additional revenues and economic benefits on the municipal level and several billions ($$) in economic benefit for the region. The Township is already seeing increased economic activity and an influx of businesses within the Village and other areas within Plainsboro as a result of the anticipated move.

Plainsboro does expect increases in demand for municipal services (including police/rescue activity, vital statistics and building inspections) and plans are in place to handle the expected increases through appropriate adjustments in administration and staff.

Mr. Yates: As a result of a comprehensive economic study conducted in advance by the municipality, I anticipate a significant net positive impact for Plainsboro as a result of the Medical Center relocation. The Township is already seeing increased economic activity and an influx of businesses within the Village and other areas within Plainsboro as a result of the anticipated move. Plainsboro expects several millions of dollars in additional revenues and economic benefits on the municipal level and several billions of dollars in economic benefit for the region.

Plans are in place at the municipal level to handle the expected increases in demand for municipal services (including police/rescue activity, vital statistics and building inspections) through appropriate adjustments in administration and staff.

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