MONTVILLE, NJ – TAPinto Montville asked the four candidates for Montville Township Committee to answer five questions about themselves. The answers are being published in a random order. These are the answers that incumbent Committee Member Matt Kayne gave.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My wife, Lori, and I moved to Montville Township from Essex County in 1994. We took day trips when we were newlyweds to search for a town to raise our family. When we came upon beautiful Lake Valhalla, we knew Montville Township was our choice. The Township’s relatively low taxes, reputation as a safe community, open spaces, and outstanding school system sealed the deal. Our 3 children all attended Montville Township public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. They have all moved on to new stages in their lives and each is making a positive contribution to society. I feel very strongly that it is the great background they received in our town that helped form who they are today.
I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine. For over 30 years, I have been a practicing general dentist and small business owner. I am involved as a member of a number of dental organizations. Our family has been a proud member of the Pine Brook Jewish Center for over 25 years.
In my early years in town, I was involved in a number of volunteer activities—such as coaching recreational sports, being a member of the Montville Township’s Sustainability Commission, a founding member of the Montville Educational Foundation, and a board member of the Passaic County Literacy Volunteers of America.
As time moved on, I decided I wanted to give back to the great community that had been so good to my family. When I decided to run for a position on the Montville Township Board of Education over 12 years ago, I had no idea it would lead me to 9 years on the BoE and now, 3 years as a Township Committeeman.
We pay so much in taxes. Why are the roads in such bad shape and always being cut into?
Prior Township Committees, trying in earnest to keep taxes to a minimum, appropriated less money than was necessary to address our aging roads and infrastructure. However, under the current Township Committee, our administration has continued to support a recently created road improvement methodology which includes a 15-year plan. The plan requires at least $1,000,000 per year in capital spending to systematically repave all of our approximately 215 lane miles of roads. While we have started to see some improvements, it is important to remember that it is a long-term plan.
The question about our roads being constantly dug up is a multi-faceted one. To begin with, county roads are controlled by county government. This includes roads such as Main Road/Route 202, Changebridge Road, and Whitehall Lane. Montville Township roads are under the jurisdiction of our township. Generally, there is much more road cutting on the county roads.
Another reason local roads are being dug up is that New Jersey Natural Gas company has been systematically expanding gas lines into areas of town that never had such infrastructure. Furthermore, over the past two decades, Montville Township has witnessed a significant amount of new development which has resulted in many roads being dug up for the installation of new infrastructure.
I am proud to have been a vocal proponent of our Township Committee recently writing and passing a ‘road opening moratorium ordinance’ which better controls how and when our streets are dug up. I was tired, like many taxpayers, of our town spending our hard-earned dollars on improving our town roads only to find an outside concern or developer wanting to dig them up again. This common sense measure now protects our roads for 3 years with the exception of either an emergency or an excused rationale approved by Township Administration. Additionally, we have negotiated with NJNG that they will pay for the milling and paving for their portion of any roads dug up as a result of their work. This measure has resulted in getting more roadways repaved while reducing the impact on Montville Township taxpayers.
What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election?
Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its social, medical, and economic impacts, the extent of which remains largely unknown, present an unprecedented challenge for the Township and our neighboring communities. As a healthcare practitioner, it has been my honor to help with fact finding and decision making in any way possible. I attended early Office of Emergency Management (OEM) meetings in February 2020, before many towns were even considering COVID-19 to be a threat. The Township Committee and administration were proactive in evaluating what we would need in terms of personal protective equipment and other supplies, and we communicated with the community by Nixle Alert, press release and other methods from early on. I am proud to say that our Health Department, first responders (including police, fire, and first aid), DPW, and township administration have all been brilliant in their ongoing response to this tragic threat to our everyday lives.
While there is still uncertainty as to what lies ahead, because of excellent planning and dedicated township employees, I feel confident Montville Township will continue to be prepared. As of this writing (October 14th, 2020), there is a slight uptick of COVID-19 cases in town along with a more prominent state and national increase in cases. I can assure our citizens that township administration is watching every aspect of the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on our town closely, and is ready to respond as needed.
On a local level, an ongoing issue that always remains prevalent, both prior to COVID-19 and especially in the wake of the hardship it has caused, is the stabilization of the local tax rate. Over the last decade, with strong leadership our town has been quite successful in staying below the mandatory 2% levy increase while at the same time providing a level of services that residents and taxpayers deserve. I am proud of the last two years’ municipal increases of just 1.44% and 1.503%. Further, we have continued to maintain our AAA bond rating, which not only illustrates how financially well-run our town is but affords us opportunity. Despite these low rates of increase we enriched the township with a significant number of capital and other improvements.
Smart management is essential to keeping Montville Township affordable in good times. Moreover, our strategic financial planning has allowed our town’s finances to be well-secured despite the additional costs and lower revenues brought about by the pandemic.
What other issues are important?
There are many. To name a few:
Listening to and continuing to disseminate information to our residents through our various modes of communication. This is especially important with regard to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic and in the case of storms and other incidents. We will always have an eye out for the safety and security of our residents.
Continued vigilance with both JCP&L (power company) and AlticeUSA (cable and wifi company). For those familiar, I have been a stalwart in pushing these two to their limits to provide the services our residents pay for, expect, and need. My latest push with AlticeUSA is nowhere near complete and I look forward to continuing to apply pressure in my second term.
Focusing on the redevelopment of the Route 46 corridor, commonly known as the Pine Brook Motel site, to bring in new tax ratables, jobs, and overall improvement to the surrounding area which will hopefully encourage more development and improvement in the outlying areas.
Constant evaluation and reassessing of our operations, and looking for more cost-effective and efficient ways to provide the services we currently provide.
Protecting and preserving the natural beauty of our town, including locating and purchasing open space properties and improving those we own.
Protecting our environment by always looking to convert to clean energy or increase energy efficiency.
Overseeing the actual implementation, design and completion of our negotiated affordable housing obligations with the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Providing resources and support to our town’s small businesses and retail establishments, most critically those adversely impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Continued monitoring of our aquifer levels and protection thereof.
Why do you feel you are uniquely qualified to be a township committee member?
I have been a practicing healthcare practitioner and small business owner for over 30 years. Aside from understanding medical health, which has been of great help to our Township Committee during the COVID-19 pandemic, I understand business. Budgeting, hiring, managing, training, creating a safe, harmonious work environment, collaboration, organization, and setting policy are all routine for me.
Unlike any of the other candidates, I have 12 years of elected public official experience. It is rare for a committee member to understand the schools and the town to the extent that I do, both personally and professionally.
I am qualified to be a Township Committee Member because I have already been a member for three years and have gained immeasurable experience and helped the TC to accomplish significant things for our town. I am proud of our many accomplishments, which include maintaining our AAA bond rating and a municipal budget with increases of less than 2% each year (and the last 2 years at historically low increases). Despite the tightening of our budget, in the last 3 years, we invested over $4M in an aggressive infrastructure program to repave our roads, add new street signs, rebuild our community playground and pavilion, and have appropriated funds for the renovation of the amphitheater behind the high school. I am proud of the way we managed the Affordable Housing settlement and most recently fought for extended affordability controls at the Rachel Gardens development, providing continued access for lower-income families to great places like Montville Township. And, many of you know, I have spearheaded the efforts to aggressively pressure our utility companies, AlticeUSA (cable and wifi) and JCP&L (power), to provide the services our residents deserve. There have been numerous other achievements for our Township Committee over these past 3 years in areas like improved communication, safety and security, and environmental, for example. But that is only scratching the surface of what our TC has been able to accomplish.
As I mentioned, I also served for 3 terms, a total of 9 years, as a member of the Montville Township Board of Education. I am honored to say my peers on the BoE selected me as VP for 5 years and for my final 2 years I served as President. Looking back at the accomplishments of the board at a time when our district was known to be a ‘revolving door’ for superintendents, we succeeded in stabilizing our administration by selecting two successive excellent superintendents which improved our district’s reputation and dramatically increased morale in district. We also worked on building collaborative relationships with teachers, school employees, administration, students and their families, most critically by improving our methods of communication and increasing transparency. We also worked to make capital improvements. One of the things I am most proud of is spearheading two projects: bringing solar panels to MTHS and Lazar and introducing the Direct Install program to our district. Both initiatives increased clean energy and efficiency in the district and saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. I also take great pride in my leadership on the board, particularly as we kept the school district budget below 2% for each of my final 7 years in office.
Given my professional, small business, and extensive elected official experience, I believe I am uniquely qualified to be a Township Committee member. When voters send in their ballots, they need to ask themselves about the importance of experience in various town elected positions, willingness to help all our residents, and understanding of small business/healthcare concerns.
Township Committee members serve three-year terms.
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