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Princeton Township Committee 2010

NOVEMBER 2010 PRINCETON TOWNSHIP
COMMITTEE CANDIDATES QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES

NON-PARTISAN ELECTION INFORMATION

Vote Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Polls are open in Princeton from 6 AM to 8 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: These are the verbatim responses of the candidates for Princeton Borough Council 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 leangth of their answers to the three questions but were a word limit for the total.

Candidates - Vote for two (three-year term)

Stuart Duncan - Republican

Liz Lempert (incumbent) - Democrat, Former Journalist. Website: www.lizlempert.com

Arden “Lance” Liverman (incumbent) - Democrat, Real Estate Investor. Website:www.lanceliverman.com

Douglas Miles - Republican, CEO, Small Business Owner (Financial Software & Data). Website:www.vote4miles.org ; www.youtube.com/vote4dougmiles

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

Mr. Duncan: No response.

Ms. Lempert: I have advocated for fiscal prudence since joining Township Committee 1-1/2 years ago. Last year's budget came in well under the new cap, despite increases in health care and other fixed costs.

I helped create our shared services and consolidation commission, which is reviewing Borough and Township operations to find ways to reduce costs and optimize services.

Salaries and benefits make up the greatest portion of our budget. We must be fair to both our taxpayers and our employees. I will advocate at the state level for pension reform and legislative changes that will improve our negotiating positions with our unions.

Last year we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars through refinancing thanks to the Township's AAA bond rating. We also saved money and cut emissions by switching to more efficient lighting and renewable energy. I will continue to advocate for similar smart savings.

Finally, we are currently negotiating with Princeton University for a fair and reliable payment in lieu of taxes contribution.

Mr. Liverman: The 2% constraints will have constraints on our next year budget. We have already
began to implement cost cutting techniques to keep us within the 2% range. It is important to note that I have with my colleagues anticipated these types of financial obligations. Princeton Township Committee will continue to deliver with excellent the necessary services. We will continue to monitor and change any financial decreases to our budget.

Mr. Miles: A zero based budgeting policy initiated at the start of each new budget cycle is something that must be inaugurated. It is likely to unearth 1 to 2% or perhaps more savings in the form of wasted or unnecessary potential expenditures. The very process of looking for such savings annually elicits both cooperation as well as money saving ideas from all public employees in all departments and bureaus to say nothing of third party vendors.

There has been much discussion about recent property appraisals in the Borough and Township. How do you think this tax issue should be addressed equitably?

Mr. Duncan: No response.

Ms. Lempert: The results of the revaluation have made this a challenging time for our community. I am committed to doing everything in my legal power to ensure assessments are accurate and fair and to provide relief to those hardest hit.

The Township will be mailing out property cards to ensure accuracy. We've directed staff to monitor current home sales to see if they are in line with assessments. We don't have to lock in this revaluation for the next 15 years. The tax assessor can adjust annually to improve accuracy and guard against huge increases in the future.

I have also urged Governor Christie to reinstate the Senior Freeze. This program could have provided vital tax relief to many of our seniors this year, as it would have frozen in their 2009 property tax rates and offered rebates to mitigate any increases.

Finally, the Township is working with a local non-profit to explore ways of offering private sector help to those property owners, regardless of age, who face unanticipated tax increases that are beyond their current means.

Mr. Liverman: I have asked for and continue to promote “ more information “ delivered to our residents. I have been a supporter to promote plans that will lessen the large financial impact on our less fortunate community members. I think it is only fair that Princeton Township Committee 
continue to listen and address the community concerns about the tax revaluation. I do not think the name calling and bickering directed to the Township Committee members is the proper way to respond. We are all in this together. My job is to make sure community members of Princeton Township did get a fair and professional appraisal. I have made it my duty to remind anyone that if you feel you have not been treated fairly to speak up and let our Tax Assessor look at your individual property. We do know when appraising over 7,000 homes (Township only) that they are going to be some errors. I just want these errors to be looked at and changed immediately.

Mr. Miles: My close communication this summer and recently with The Princeton Fair Tax Alliance informs me we may be rapidly approaching the threshold for automatic restarting of a fresh property assessment revaluation cycle. We may know for sure by early next year. If a new assessment is mandated, we must get it right this time. We must therefore strenuously query, cross examine, understand and otherwise screen the process and the method before authorizing private contractors and County Assessment officials to revalue our taxpayers' homes. Public comment and hearings should automatically accompany this thorough due diligence process of any new revaluation and the due diligence must be led by the Township Committee and no one else. The 2010 Twp. Property Revaluation which appeared hastily authorized and turned over to the County Assessment Board failed any serious Accountability challenge from the COMMITTEE and the voters before authorization. Is this a breakdown of checks and balances arising from one party local rule and one party County Assessment Bureaucracy?

A transportation patchwork exists in Princeton - Crosstown 62, FreeB, NJ Transit, TigerTransit, and the Dinky. What will you do to establish a rational and effective system of public transportation within the Princeton Community?

Mr. Duncan: No response.

Ms. Lempert: Despite many transportation services, the community is still underserved and transit is underutilized. The Princeton Community Transportation Coordination Initiative has been working on this particular problem. They've designed an initial route to serve population clusters and to create a more usable network. Currently the FreeB only operates during rush hour. If we used the FreeB bus during off-hours, it could span the Borough and Township and reach seniors, Princeton Community Village, the Library and the Princeton Shopping Center. I support seeking private funding for this initiative. I also advocate consolidating information on a single brochure or website so the range of routes and options is clear. 
Transit within town must easily connect to transit out of town. I don't think we should ditch expensive, existing infrastructure like the Dinky.

Often the most enjoyable way to get around is by foot or bike. I will continue to push for safe routes in and around town.

Mr. Liverman: I wish I had a magic wand that could enhance our current senior transportation issues. As many of you know I was one of the original architects to design the current Crosstown 62
transportation system. I think the system using local Taxi's has been a huge success. I think we need to benefit from our understanding that all of these transportation issues once handled will only add to the greatness of Princeton as a positive town. I would like to see Princeton University (TigerTransit) expand to a point that it can cover our entire town. I think that Princeton University does do the transportation program extremely well. Pick ups are on time. Deliveries are on time. Bad weather is no issue. I would love for the entire town to benefit from such a great program. I would love to sit down with Crosstown 62, Free B, New Jersey Transit and Dinky crowds. This conversation will be to examine the impact if Tiger Transit could provide the total transportation. We could learn so much on executing a dynamic transportation program. I must keep in mind that Crosstown 62 model is geared for Seniors and would love to continue such a program. Major transportation issues are not going to be solved overnight but we can work to develop a superior system.

Mr. Miles: Princeton Twp. Relies extensively on the Borough, West Windsor, and NJ Transit (the State) to design, support and execute on public transportation policy which directly affects Twp. residents. An elected Committee Member(s) serving with an all volunteer advisory Transportation Board should be mandated and assigned to understand and discern all of the issues and providers. This should result in knowing better how Princeton Twp. may optimally position itself to assist as well as to govern and plan around local and State transportation issues both short and long term. A five year and ten year plan should be the inaugural work of this new body and these plans should be reviewed by the COMMITTEE at large at least once per year and updated. A transportation liaison to Trenton from the COMMITTEE may also be deemed to be valuable here. Again the value of two party representation on the COMMITTEE augurs powerfully during service of a popular and effective GOP Governor.

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