Keeping property taxes affordable and in line with the value of services received is always a challenge for every Township Committee, and the pandemic's effects on the State's finances will only make things more challenging. Lebanon Township funds about half of its spending with dollars from the Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief Fund which is good news for our taxpayers - but it also makes us especially vulnerable to disruptions in that funding. It is time to think big and go beyond "business as usual" to keep spending down, which means reconsidering whether we need the Administrator position created in 2019; and taking advantage of State assistance in considering whether regional shared services makes sense for our Township.
Over the span of my 40 year professional career in investment management, I've trained extensively in financial analysis, building on the foundation I got from my MBA program when I first got started. I'm very comfortable ripping apart financial statements and seeing the story they tell, what's being hidden, and where opportunities might be. I don't need to be spoon-fed information: I'm happy to educate myself on an issue, find the right people to talk to, and dig deep to see all sides to difficult issues. I've also spent my professional life in client-facing roles and so I know how to get along with and work effectively with all sorts of people, and keep my eye on what really matters for our Township's residents and taxpayers.
In 2019, the Lebanon Township Committee passed Ordinance 2019-06 which created a part-time Administrator position (sharing a person with Tewksbury). While I admire the intent to realize efficiencies by sharing someone with another township, I don't believe spending $65,000+ a year on a part-time position has been wise. We have skilled department heads with long tenure who serve our Township well, and I don't see value to adding another layer of bureaucracy above them (and can easily imagine how disincentivized some staff might feel as a result.) We need to reverse this ordinance.
The Township also passes an annual Resolution Supporting Individual Rights; I have voiced my support for a revised version of this annual Resolution proposed by the North Hunterdon Anti Racism Coalition. The revised version would be more explicit in asserting our community's standards to include condemning hate, abuse of power, and symbols of bigotry.
I want the Lebanon Township Police to operate with the highest professional standards. In return for their professionalism, the LT Police should feel welcomed, supported, and integral to our community, and we should be an employer of choice for law enforcement professionals. Our hiring processes should realize the benefits of diverse pools of applicants for any vacant positions. To the extent that relevant data can legally be collected, we should periodically review with the Chief of Police data for traffic stops and citations issued to consider any outsized representation by any racial group among those having contact with our officers. Although many people transit through our township on Rt 31 or Rt 513, we'd like our township to be welcoming to everyone who chooses to spend time - and money - here.
Hunterdon County was not at the front of the line for federal dollars to offset our Covid expenses, as more populated counties got first priority per the law. But the County has received some funding now, and Governor Murphy has also proposed municipal aid with some of the relief aid the State has received. Our biggest vulnerability in the Covid context in Lebanon Township is continued access to Energy Tax Receipts Property Relief Fund payments, to the extent that the State's dire finances might tempt them to withhold or cut those transfer payments. Our residents have suffered economically in the pandemic and will continue to do so, and so we must be much more aggressive in finding ways to cut spending and property taxes - and start having the difficult conversations about regional shared services as an alternative to our local control.
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Lebanon Township as with all municipalities face many challenges from day to day operations .Residential concerns and the well being of the community to the fiscal responsibility of running a Township is foremost. Added to our plate is the Covid-19 crisis and the health of our municipal employees and work place safety. Lebanon Township streams 40% of our annual budget from an Energy Tax Receipt, labeled as " state aid ". I have argued that it is rightful municipal compensation. With the fiduciary crisis in Trenton and the Governor holding the lock box to this compensation. Lebanon Township will be faced with a short fall of some nature in near term. How we make up for the loss of this revenue stream will depend on the amount siphoned off. I have been able to work across the aisle to prepare for this possibility. We have paid close attention to our debt structure, increasing our debt service each budget cycle," paying Down", and adding No New Borrowing, establishing a capital improvement line item and funding for road improvements, equipment purchases, apparatus, fire and rescue a pay as you go plan.I have held labor and contractual bargaining at or lower than 2%, while holding the tax levy at 2%. We will continue to implement this strategy for the foreseeable future. I will outreach with my colleagues a program to engage our county and state leaders to work back to Lebanon Township.
Covid-19 and the pandemic is a concern for all, what will be the new Norm? My concerns are for the municipal employees, township boards, standing committees and our community as well. We the elected officials must implement and re-visit reopening plans to provide for the health and welfare of our employees and residents. Plans that complies with the most recent recommendations from CDC, Federal,state and county Emergency Management Agencies and The Hunterdon County Health Dept.Our common thread is to provide a healthy and safe application ,assuring a environment that can be trusted to begin getting back to a normal society.
Life and the journey I have followed,"Be true to one's self, do not forget who you are". Now, in the end of my third term as a elected official serving the community has been a honor and privilege. I have served as Mayor three consecutive years, Deputy Mayor for one and sat concurrently on the planning board as well. I have in this time gained the insight and knowledge of the working functions of our municipality and benefited from this valuable experience to continue to effectively serve the residents. This experience has afforded me the ability to listen and work together with many different issues facing the township. I have had the opportunity to represent the Township at many different functions, whether speaking at a Eagle scout ceremony, highland stakeholder meeting or organizing a volunteer awards dinner acknowledging the Volunteers of Lebanon Township , which I consider our un-sung hero's of our town. I have worked closely with leaders in our local communities in developing shared services to ease the burden with a shared cost.
My personal experience of raising a family in the township I serve is a rewarding pleasure. Now having my grandchildren living close by in the township is another aspect to serving making this the fifth generation from my Wife's side to call Lebanon Township home.
We have been able to connect with community through lifelong friendships and wonderful acquaintances. I find this the very experience gained here, which helps me to a better understanding of our community. I continue to have the interest and dedication needed to serve and together we can keep this remarkable township a great place to live.
I professionally operate a small business established in 1978 and I developed into a corporation still in operation as a independent business.Through this business, you learn to re-educate yourself, and at times by the school of hard knocks successfully navigate your way through the different economic changes and times. I wear many different hats handling day to day operation in my business. you are the CFO, accountant, accounts receivable/payable. While my business grew i learned to delegate to other professionals and you find yourself moving to a position with business, clientele, merchants and sales meetings.Through this long and steady process you hone your skill sets and knowledge of business and relate this to the ability to understand what are the township's needs.
My time spent as a elected official, my personal and professionally life, as you can see, has established and prepared me to continue to serve our community to the best of my ability.
While it has been my experience that a good ordinance, well thought out by design, clear and comprehensive in stature is a careful process. I have come to the thinking that many of our local ordinance's have been well thought out and crafted. However, I do feel that a review of some ordinances, which may need updating and tweaking to meet the realities of Lebanon Township today. By resolution on a annual basis we could have a subcommittee set up to review ordinances and if need be to recommend to the full Governing body changes they deem appropriate. The Governing body could then make amendments as needed to the ordinance with public review.
Recently, we just placed a new ordinance in the code book of Lebanon Township. With the guidance from the chief of police, we added a local disorderly persons ordinance. Until we adopted this ordinance our police dept. relied on the state statue for a disorderly person which can be harsh and historically connected to the individual .Let me explain, a young individual that's convicted on a disorderly person under the state statue will carry a criminal record forward and when applying for a future job it will show up on the individual's record. Do not miss read me, if you are disorderly and cross the line you will deserve the record. So, because of the hardship associated with the state statue, our local police tend to really hold back before making that arrest. The Township Committee by adopting the local related ordinance now added a tool for the police to issue a disorderly person summons, much like a traffic ticket
if someone is unruly but not in criminal nature.
Municipalities can have the elected officials and local police Dept., directed by the police chief to review police policies and procedures. Have a broad review and discussion by amending the local ordinance which would bring the topic into public view. During this process of review and contemplate, the municipality would have the ability to up-date and adjust the standard operation procedure/policy to meet the needs and circumstances which now face municipal policing. A revision that takes a sensible approach, looking to promote community policing and the real aspect that a police Dept is a vital part of any community.
Lebanon Township began a series of short term and long term adjustments to meet the fiduciary needs then, now and further down the road. We have considered policies to stay with in the 2% cap, contractual negotiations at or below 2%. Short term we can look at operating expense for all Dept's asking to consider an adjustment down from the previous years budget. Continue to stop any new borrowing, adding a program to slice and cut debt. Look to a program which basically is a pay as you go, working capital improvement fund vs. borrowing by prioritize spending on a need to have, building surplus and use in times warranted. All these steps will help the township maneuver through the Covid Crisis. Short term and long term we will continue to search for opportunities, such as shared services,cost sharing, grant funding,and a careful watch on county/state, programs/contracts on a need to bases.
Economic impacts, being a rural community in setting, with about 6400 residents, stretched out over 36 sq. miles, our local businesses need to have the support of the residents and local commerce. I will continue to promote our local business as we navigate the Covid Regulations. By promoting our township natural beauty, open space and recreation we can help bring commerce to our local establish businesses. Using local resolution and quidelines set by the state we will continue to look further ahead and offer support to or local businesses as we move forward.
106 Musconetcong River Road
Washington, NJ 07882
The most serious challenges facing Lebanon Township center around budget. The municipal government must shoulder the tough job of balancing keeping things affordable with providing needed services and decreasing debt costs.
High property taxes have long been a burden on our citizens, disproportionally affecting and pushing out our young families and our elderly. The current pandemic will only exacerbate this as the State relief dries up — the Homestead Rebate and Senior Freeze are delayed and likely cancelled entirely this year. The Energy Tax Receipts are also in jeopardy, as well as our already slim school aid.
Schools account for the vast majority of our property taxes; therefore, it is critical that the Township Committee be a proactive partner with the Board of Education to be sure every dollar for our schools stretches as far as it can. Although schools have not been open since March, taxpayers have not received any relief. As a community, we recognize the teachers’ dedication in reimagining education using online learning, but the coffers are empty, the citizens have no more to give, and business-as-usual will not find us solutions.
Rather than practicing fiscal responsibility and mindful budgeting, in 2019, the Township Committee created a highly compensated part-time Township Administrator position over advice and serious objections from many residents. This has contributed to a lack of community motivation and trust. Now its the time to rise together, not to alienate the very people we are supposed to serve.
The standout lesson of my professional experience is to be prepared to solve issues before they become problems. If one is only reactive, the ship will be forever bailing water with no forward progress. My background in nonprofit project management and event production gives me a keen understanding of how to get big things accomplished while keeping costs low. It has also taught me the vital importance of coalitions — not only within our Township but also working cooperatively with other small municipalities will avoid our reinventing the wheel for every challenge and secure a louder collective voice with the state.
In managing both employees and volunteers, a constant has been that a person who is micromanaged, undermined, or devalued. will not and cannot perform to their highest talent. Explicit communication, consistent processes, community trust are necessary to the success of any mission.
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We are lucky to live in a small municipality where the police know most of the citizens and vice versa. However, so many problematic decisions originate at a subconscious level. Those decisions then are enshrined in practice and still have the power to cause harm fathoms away from any overt discriminatory intent. To decrease both conscious and unconscious problematic patterns, Lebanon Township needs to take advantage of State funding for implicit bias training as well as anti-discrimination training. A citizens review committee with diverse voices should also be founded to review and advise so that new ordinances are not unwittingly exposing or targeting vulnerable populations.
COVID-19 has not created the budgetary problems in Lebanon Township so much as exposed them and brought them to a critical head. I would pursue a three part approach to mitigating economic impact. First, tighten our belts on the places that we have full municipal control, such as cutting an extravagant business administrator. Second, we need to take a hard look at where further smart savings may be possible through coordinating with other municipalities on expanded consolidated services, in limited strategic arenas. Third, liaison with county and state to maximize resources. For one example, we have a superb community college, which honors a minimal-tuition agreement for our high school students, yet rather than encourage use of it, the schools sag under costly AP classes that are less transferable as college credit. The second and third pillars are ongoing processes as much as an end goal. Needed changes are sometimes not grand and splashy, but steady, hard work.