Our Township Comittee candidate Alex Wisienski spoke with the Asbury Park Press about why we need to end the 44-year one-party political rule over Freehold Township — and how he would help to lower taxes, improve infrastructure, support local businesses, and bring oversight to the committee if he were elected. To read his full plan, click the “Read More” link. And don’t forget to vote Wisienski for Freehold on November 7th!
Q: How would you rate the committee’s track record with developing the budget and setting municipal property taxes?
A: I think this committee’s track record is sorely in need of improvement. They don’t seem to address the issues of overspending until they’re faced with embarrassment by Democratic opponents.
This is a result of the one-party political rule over Freehold Township for 44 years. Their total control over the town for such a long time allowed them all to feel as if they can do anything they want. There is rarely anyone there to look at the budget, and the taxes, and say “Why aren’t we doing better?” The only time they hear an opposing voice is in an election season.
Let’s first look at the annual salaries: Our Township Committee is one of the highest paid in Monmouth County. Plus, our town administrator is paid more than the governor of the state of New Jersey.
This is one reason our residents are complaining about taxes.
Mr. Preston uses the “budgets under the 2 percent tax levy cap” line, which is their faithful go-to line. But they have only started to address this issue because of their rival Democratic candidates over the past few elections, who took them to task on the issues concerning spending of our tax dollars. Now the current committee wants to take credit for it.
Let’s take a look at some more issues:
First, full-time worker medical benefits are given to the part-time committee members. And those who opted out of the medical benefits because of coverage elsewhere were given a stipend up to $8,000.00 a year for not using the benefits.
Mr. Salkin, who was also a business owner and author, took advantage of it. He had free medical coverage for his entire family through his position on the Township committee. That cost upwards of $300,000.00+ in taxpayer money for 16 years in office. Was it illegal? No, because the committee members have been in office so long that they can do whatever they want. They voted to give the benefits to themselves.
But they did not extend that privilege to others. As of January 2010, they made sure those benefits were not available to members elected after January 2010. However, all committee members who were in office before 2010 were grandfathered in to keep those benefits.
This committee did not go far enough. They should have ended the inappropriate use of those benefits completely, for everyone.
Next, the committee claims they saved money by paying minimal payments on our town debt. However, those payments barely covered interest on the debt. That resulted in higher interest accruing, and expanding our debt because the principal was never paid. Their so-called money-saving scheme actually drove our town, and its taxpayers, further into debt.
Finally, there’s the issue of the committee’s method of acquiring insurance. They personally knew an insurance agent, so they paid the rates that agent offered, without shopping around for lower rates that could save the town money. This cost the taxpayers 20% of our budget.
When this issue was uncovered and brought up, a long-time committeeman responded by saying, “That’s how we always do it here.” I guess when they are in control for so long, they feel can do whatever they want.
After the embarrassment of having the insurance issue uncovered, the town took the Democrats’ advice and became self-insured. They also put some of the budget out to public bidding. This saved the taxpayers money. But what else are they still doing, with no regard for how much it costs taxpayers, because “That’s how we always do it here”?
Property taxes in this town are still the highest around after 44 years of one-party rule. Every year, residents complain about their taxes, but the one-party committee has done nothing to bring them down.
It can be done. Freehold Township is a very close comparison, geographically and in populace, to Manalapan. Yet our property taxes are so much higher.
And these are just the issues uncovered and brought to light by Democratic candidates running against the one-party committee in the past. Imagine how many more discrepancies might be found and improved, and how much taxpayer money could be saved, if I were on the committee and able to dig deeper into their “That’s how we always do it here” attitude.
Q: What would your strategy be if elected?
A: I would bring a different perspective, to prevent the continuance of this “That’s how we always do it here” behavior. Nothing can be changed successfully without a new perspective. I would ask the committee to consider several new plans and programs to balance our budget, support local businesses, improve the infrastructure of our town, and lower residents’ taxes.
I would like
- to help local neighborhood businesses improve by implementing a program like “Shop Marlboro,” which has boosted sales for local merchants there, and helped residents to effectively lower property taxes.
- to partner with our local state assembly members to explore further options for lowering property taxes to make Freehold Township more affordable.
- to enact an improved method of maintaining our roads and infrastructure. We could establish and follow regular maintenance schedules, like several neighboring townships, rather than only reacting on an as-needed basis as we do now. Waiting to make repairs on an as-needed basis means that repairs are often not made until after conditions have become more expensive (and sometimes dangerous).
- to see more balance in the town government, with more elected officials and township appointments from other political parties and walks of life. This would bring diversity to local government, better reflect our populace, and offer a more objective point of view to residents of the town.
- to increase oversight and encourage more community scrutiny of the Township planning board. We need diversity on the planning board to be constructive, and make decisions that are in the best interest of our residents.
- to bring transparency to Freehold Township and to do away with the “good old boy” mentality that seems to be ruling now.
I have learned that diversity and change is necessary in life, and in government, to grow healthy.
Visit wisienskiforfreehold.com for more information on Alex and his plans to build a better Freehold Township.