Meet this year’s candidates for the Voorhees Township Committee — Week 3

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Every week, The Sun will ask the candidates in the Nov. 8 election for committee to respond to questions pertinent to local issues.

This week’s questions:

1.) What are your feelings regarding recent municipal budgets, expenditures and municipal property tax rates in Voorhees?

2.) How would you rate the municipality’s ability to communicate with residents and respond to their needs? What would you continue or change?

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1.) What are your feelings regarding recent municipal budgets, expenditures and municipal property tax rates in Voorhees?

As many residents know, the majority of our property taxes fund the local and regional school districts. Voorhees has an excellent school system. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. This is also true with the municipal budget, which makes up about 14 percent of the total property tax bill and is the only portion that is under the control of township committee. My view is to hold the line on taxes with more disciplined spending through enhanced shared services and grants. I also believe that Voorhees residents are entitled to the highest quality of municipal services at the lowest possible costs. As a parent and long-time Voorhees resident, I understand the importance of public safety and security in times like these. The safety of Voorhees children and our families must come first. Our Voorhees Police Department, led by Chief Lou Bordi, does an excellent job, and we must give the police department and first responders the resources they need to protect our residents. Unfortunately, my opponent voted against putting police officers in every school and more on our streets. Mike Friedman’s vote against this year’s municipal budget was irresponsible and the wrong decision for Voorhees residents and their families. This year’s budget was approved by Mayor Mignogna, Deputy Mayor Ravitz, Committeewoman Nocito and Committeeman Platt, and put more police in our schools and on our streets while still being within the 2 percent cap.

As a member of the Planning Board and an active member in our community, I have watched the actions of our current township administration. With all the cuts in state aid, they have done an excellent job of keeping the municipal tax rates stable while spending our tax dollars wisely. Unfortunately, other than voting no to budgets, which provide safety and security to our residents, my opponent has not come up with one initiative while on committee. If elected, I will advocate the hiring of a professional grant writer. Grants are an excellent way to raise revenues without raising taxes. I believe a professional grant writer is a great way to help take some of the property tax burden off of our residents.

2.) How would you rate the municipality’s ability to communicate with residents and respond to their needs? What would you continue or change?

I believe that the municipality does an excellent job communicating with its residents and responding to their needs. Unlike many towns, Voorhees tapes and airs its township committee meetings on the local public access channel. Voorhees also has a user friendly interactive website where residents can go for a tremendous amount of information. Voorhees also has many dedicated employees who respond to residents’ needs on a daily basis. As a member of the Planning Board for the last 20 years and its chairman for the last eight years, I have personally been involved with the shaping of development in the township. All municipal meeting agendas are online and at the Planning Board, we communicate with residents regarding development in town and their neighborhoods. Like Mayor Mignogna, Deputy Mayor Ravitz, Committeewoman Nocito and Committeeman Platt, who are my

friends and supporters, I believe being out in the community and talking with residents is important. I have been meeting hundreds of residents during my campaign, and have learned that it is important to listen and find ways to address concerns. One of my other initiatives is to form a Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board. This will be an effective way for residents to communicate with the township regarding public safety concerns.

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1.) What are your feelings regarding recent municipal budgets, expenditures and municipal property tax rates in Voorhees?

While Township Committee has made significant progress recently in lowering the rate of tax increases in our budget, it wasn’t always that way. We have plenty more work to do in this area to stem the tide of good, hard-working, residents who are fleeing our town after their kids graduate high school for other more “tax-friendly” towns in Burlington County, Ocean County or even out of state. It is incumbent upon committee to do everything possible to alleviate this burden on our residents.

During the nine-year period prior to my election in 2010, when my opponent’s party had absolute 5–0 control of committee, the average tax increase per year was 6.3 percent without a single year of taxes being reduced or remaining flat. By comparison, the last six years since I have been elected to committee, taxes have only increased an average of 2.65 percent annually with one year of taxes being reduced and another year of taxes remaining flat. This is not a coincidence, but is the result of having a taxpayer watchdog on committee who provides local government with the necessary checks and balances it needs.

My opponent wishes to take Voorhees back to the days of 5–0 one-party rule with record continued tax increases highlighted by the granting of expensive pay-to-play contracts to cronies of the majority. If I have the honor of being re-elected, I will continue to be a champion for the Voorhees taxpayer by:

– Working to eliminate expensive political patronage jobs for cronies of the majority paid for on the backs of Voorhees taxpayers;

– Working to have our most expensive yearly professional appointments work under a “flat fee” arrangement (as other towns have done) as opposed to being paid via uncontained ballooning “hourly” fee which will allow us to contain costs and save us hundreds of thousands of dollars per year;

– Working to continue and obtain new shared service opportunities with other towns and public entities to share costs and increase efficiency;

– Working to infuse a new revenue stream into our township by establishing commercial naming rights sponsorships with local and regional businesses

2.) How would you rate the municipality’s ability to communicate with residents and respond to their needs? What would you continue or change?

Communication and transparency are vital to a responsible local government. Our residents deserve committee members who are going to be available and responsive to them no matter what the issue. Similarly to our tax rates, our committee has made strides in this area since I came aboard in 2010, but there is more that can and should be done.

Since 2010, I have improved communication to our residents by hosting over 75 town hall and coffee meetings to provide status updates to residents and respond to residents’ concerns. I will continue to dedicate myself to meeting with residents whenever and wherever possible. I was also the first committeeperson to create and maintain a dedicated Facebook page which provides consistent updates to residents concerning policies from committee, public safety happenings and through which I provide prompt answers to questions from residents looking for information. Our residents have greatly appreciated this outreach, and I will continue to maintain this open line of communication so that residents’concerns may be answered at the drop of a hat.

Since 2010, I have also pushed for vast improvements to our township website which now includes past budgets, agendas, minutes and even video of committee meetings for increased openness. As a committee, we need to do a better job though of exactly when and where they can catch our meeting broadcasts. Finally, our website is again being revised so that it is even more user friendly and has as much information as possible at our residents’ fingertips. I pride myself on being able to communicate with and be available to our residents at all times and would be honored to do the same for another three years.