Plainsboro Township Committee Candidates 2012
Plainsboro Township Candidates Answer League Questions
Vote Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 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 the total.
Candidates – Vote for two (three-year term)
Krishna Jagannathan – Republican, Occupational Safety Consultant, New Jersey Department of Labor. Website: KrishnaForPlainsboro.com
Neil Lewis (incumbent) – Democrat, Senior manager and director for Plainsboro-based Jacobus Pharmaceutical Company, Inc.; Ph.D. medicinal chemist and research scientist; author/co-author of some 80 papers, publications and patents. Website: www.plainsborodemocrats.org
M. (Marjorie) Doyle Lyons – Republican, Now serving as treasurer of sister’s small business; formerly an equity analyst in investment management and financial analyst for over 30 years
Nuran Nabi (incumbent) – Democrat, Retired from leadership position in Colgate-Palmolive Company; co-inventor of Colgate Total toothpaste technology; about one hundred patents and publications. Website: www.nurannabi.com
1. What personal and professional experiences in your life have prepared you for this office?
I grew up in Montgomery Township, NJ (Somerset County) and attended Rutgers University. After graduating with my B.S. in Ecology/Natural Resources, I worked in environmental engineering and environmental health & safety. I recently left my job as an EMS Educator to take a position with the NJ Department of Labor working in Occupational Safety, promoting safe work practices and ensuring the wellbeing of public employees across New Jersey.
Last February I was elected to office in the Plainsboro Township Fire District #1 where I have helped to maintain a zero tax increase this year. My skills and participation were essential to the negotiation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the dayshift firefighters, and instrumental to the development and hiring of our new dayshift supervisor/lieutenant. Over the last few months I have proven myself as an effective steward of taxpayer dollars. I look forward to bringing my fresh perspective and executive experience to the Township Committee.
As a 28 year resident, Deputy Mayor since 1998, and elected township committeeman since 1995, I am proud to live and work in Plainsboro. My community service began as a youth sports volunteer, and continued on the Environmental Advisory Committee since 1989 as volunteer, then chairman, and now as township liaison. Plainsboro’s focus on open space, smart growth, quality parks/recreation facilities, and the 900 acre environmental preserve have made us a standout community. I have served as liaison for public safety (police, fire and rescue services) to interface between our outstanding public safety groups and the township. My service to the community-at-large includes school facilities review, and chairman of the citizens committee leading to High School North. I hope to continue my service to the residents of Plainsboro, and to keep it an outstanding community.
My experiences give me understanding of a broad range of issues, the financial background to understand the budget, and the ability to work with a variety of people, organizations and volunteer groups.
I am a retired Ph.D. scientist and worked 22 years in the leadership position in Colgate Palmolive Company Research Center. I am residing in Plainsboro for over 18 years and have been serving on the Township Committee since 2007. Previously, I spent 3 years on the Township’s Human Relations Council and 2 years on the Planning Board. I founded many socio-cultural organizations in the USA.
In my more than 15 years of involvement in the township, I have learned a lot about the township people. As a dedicated community leader with local, national, and global experience, I am committed to serving Plainsboro’s families.
2. What do you consider the three greatest challenges facing Plainsboro over the next three years, and how would you address them?
High property taxes are forcing residents to leave once their children graduate from our schools. Some of these high taxes are due to our high-performing school district, but much of the wasteful spending stems from decisions made by the township committee. I would weigh the cost-benefits of every spending decision that comes before the township, and challenge the status-quo to identify opportunities for cost savings.
Businesses are fleeing Plainsboro for a variety of reasons ranging from the lack of advertising capabilities to inflexibility with regard to tax code. Some aren’t even invited to be part of our township – just because one man doesn’t want a gas station in Plainsboro doesn’t mean the community wouldn’t welcome its addition. We must consider new, innovative business ventures in the township.
The hospital’s relocation represents an important milestone in Plainsboro’s development and the resulting growth will represent an increase in ratables for our town. It is important that growth is managed with input from township residents.
Maintaining the quality of life in Plainsboro while controlling municipal taxes will continue to be high priorities. Effectively celebrating and respecting the cultural diversity of our unique community will also be an important goal for continuing success in the future. We maintained the lowest municipal tax rate in our county while earning the highest (AAA) bond rating. We have successfully attracted millions of dollars in outside funding while focusing on well planned, cost-effective operations. Plainsboro has: over 50% of its land preserved, including our preserve/ environmental center, a new state-of the-art library, award winning village center, new parks, and a new recreation/cultural center created in the former library building. Successful attraction of the University Medical Center at Plainsboro, as a major redevelopment site, provides a strong statement of future success, as do the other corporate headquarters in town. We will be welcoming the Novo Nordisk North American headquarters to Plainsboro next year. By continuing to offer a wide array of cultural/recreational programs celebrating the backgrounds within our diverse population, we can ensure that Plainsboro remains an outstanding place to live, work and raise a family.
Township Finances and Property Taxes - Underlying pressures will further increase expenses and taxes. The property tax rate has risen 5.6% annually during the last 3 years, a time of low inflation. Several factors will further pressure expenses. (A) Plainsboro’s population exploded from 1980-2000 (from 5605 residents to 20,215 in 2000, and 22,999 in 2010). This multiplied the municipal employee base. Employees who have now worked for the township for 20-25 years will start retiring, causing higher pension and other benefits expenses. (B) While our infrastructure is largely built out (schools, the new library, etc.), the Township Committee seems to issue new debt to replace maturing debt. When interest rates rise, our interest expense will start to go up, more still if debt levels increase. (C) As new facilities start to age, repair and maintenance expenses will rise.
Yet the Township Committee spent $3.2 million to renovate the former library to turn it into a town recreation/meeting center. We shouldn’t spend money on items that fit into the category of “wouldn’t it be nice to have a ___.” Our priority is to maintain high quality schools. I would set clear priorities with input from residents. I am not wedded to existing programs or departments. We need to rein in the expenses that we can control.
Development of Remaining Undeveloped Land - A bill in the NJ Assembly would permit private universities to bypass the local planning and zoning approval process. Princeton University owns undeveloped land in Plainsboro comprising nearly 2/3 of the land in town that can be developed. A private university should not be exempt from the review process that other citizens and entities must go through, citizens that will pay for the new roads, potential new schools, additional services and infrastructure involved. I would work with our State Assemblywoman and other Assemblymen.
Traffic Safety and Safety of Pedestrians - Traffic will increase, prompted by (a) the new hospital, (b) the slowly improving economy and local job gains, (c) development in surrounding towns, (d) people using “back roads” to avoid Route 1, and (e) eventual development of Princeton University’s undeveloped land. I would work with town residents, the police and the NJ DOT.
Maintaining quality of life in Plainsboro, taxes and awareness of cultural diversity are always topics of challenges.
Although Plainsboro continues to have the lowest municipal tax rate in the county, and an AAA bond rating, we continue to look for ways to minimize costs, enhance efficiency, and build on our strong community assets. We are proud that Plainsboro has been recognized in recent years as one of the best towns in NJ to live and do business. We will consider these points for moving forward to keep Plainsboro a great place to live and work.
For a number of years, Plainsboro has been utilizing 5-year cost projections as part of our annual budget process and fiscal planning. This has allowed us to anticipate challenges and react accordingly. As a result we have avoided drastic actions that negatively impact our local services. We are committed to continuing this emphasis on expense control and revenue enhancement that has resulted in the lowest municipal tax rate in Middlesex County, along with the highest bond rating (AAA). If we are faced with future challenges, we would approach these in the same way with careful examination of all expense and revenue items. This has proven to be successful and we would continue with this approach.
We will continue to organize many more inter-cultural programs to increase awareness of cultural diversity through our newly opened Recreation and Cultural Center.
3. What has been the impact of the new medical center on Plainsboro, and how would you propose to remedy any negative effects?
The township has benefitted heavily from the addition of UMCPP. First and foremost, our residents have unparalleled access to a cutting-edge, modern hospital with world-class medical professionals. The tax base expansion certainly helps, although we won’t see those effects for a few years. And UMCPP helped fund several items in town including emergency traffic signal changers for Police/Fire/EMS, a public park accessible from the road, and roadway and signal improvements.
The only concern I have heard from members of the community has been the addition of traffic lights along Plainsboro Road and Connector Road adjoining the hospital. These concerns are manageable by conducting a traffic study and adjusting light sensors and timings.
The relocation of the University Medical Center to the Plainsboro campus is the product of more than 6 years of detailed community planning and cooperation. The plans considered financial benefits to residents and taxpayers, impacts on services and local roads, and potential for economic development and business benefits to Plainsboro and the region. In all respects, this state-of-the-art health campus project is meeting goals and expectations. We are proud of the outstanding medical facilities which reflect a true success story. We continue to predict clear financial benefits for the future without significant negative impacts. The UMCPP story is one which underscores the success possible with careful community and business planning.
The medical center has generally had a positive impact on the township. It requires more town services, and has generated more traffic, but hopefully employees of and visitors to the hospital and the medical offices now in town will use local shops and restaurants. We need to work with these groups to facilitate this.
The University Medical Center's move to Plainsboro is part of a 160 acre Redevelopment Plan, and is the product of over 6 years of careful community planning. Among the factors considered as part of the approval of the plan were: financial benefits, the impacts on services and local roads, and the economic, employment and potential for business benefits to Plainsboro and the region. We are pleased to report that in all respects, this project is meeting our goals. It is providing state-of-the-art medical facilities for our township and region, significant financial benefits for the community, and is doing this with no significant negative impacts. The UMCP at Plainsboro is truly a success story.
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