ABOUT JIM BALDASSARE: Both Jim and his wife Tracy, who serves as a Bernards Township Police Officer, are lifelong residents of Bernards Township, and Ridge High School graduates. They have six children all of whom have attended or currently attend township schools.
Jim is our Mayor and is seeking another three-year term as a Republican on the Township Committee. He has over thirty years experience in the contract surety industry from both surety company and agency perspectives. As an executive his responsibilities include underwriting and managing surety programs, managing a team of professionals, performing extensive financial and management analyses, as well as expanding and growing business opportunities. Jim has previously served as Deputy Mayor. He has also served as the Mayor’s Designee on the Bernards Township Planning Board and as Vice Chairman of the Bernards Township Zoning Board of Adjustment. In fulfilling his responsibilities on the planning and zoning boards Jim worked on the implementation of the municipality's Master Plan and associated capital improvement plans, and reviewed and acted upon applications for site plans, and subdivisions, and variances.
Jim is a United States Marine Corps veteran and graduated first in his class from Parris Island. He attended Northeastern University studying economics and participated in the 2015 Somerset Leadership Program. Jim is a licensed New Jersey Property and Casualty Agent- Broker.
For more information about Jim, please see: https://www.baldassaregrochala.com/jamesbaldassare
ABOUT KATE GROCHALA: Kate, along with her husband of thirty-five years, Rick, have called the Bernards Township community their home for twenty-five years. They have two daughters, Kelly and Molly who graduated from Ridge High School.
Kate is a graduate of the University of Scranton and Seton Hall Law School. She served as Chief of Staff for Assemblywoman Denise Coyle where her responsibilities included working on proposed legislation, managing the legislative district office, preparing and presenting public presentations on behalf of Assemblywoman Coyle, performing legal research and drafting position papers. Kate has previously served as a Somerset County Republican Committeewoman and has worked on several campaigns both as a Treasurer and County Coordinator. In 2005 Kate was selected for and participated in the Christine Todd Whitman Excellence in Public Service Series.
Kate has successfully navigated Trenton’s government bureaucracy, and has experience and in-depth knowledge of the Fair Housing Act which requires all municipalities in New Jersey to provide their “fair share” of low- and moderate-income affordable housing.
Kate is a strong supporter of our veterans, police, and first responders.
For more information about Kate Grochala please see: https://www.baldassaregrochala.com/copy-of-about-us-1
Public service positions in which you have served.
Please see above.
What do you feel are the top issues in town? How would you address them?
OVERDEVELOPMENT: Managing overdevelopment is a challenge being faced all across New Jersey, and Bernards Township is not immune from that challenge. We enjoy great schools, outstanding parks, wonderful open space and many other public facilities which enhance the high quality of life that Bernards Township is well-known for.
Despite this, overdevelopment has the potential to seriously affect our quality of life and have serious adverse impacts on our finances, schools, traffic, and emergency services.
Bernards Township is fully compliant through 2025 with its’ affordable housing obligations and has managed to do so by being proactive. Not all municipalities can say this and many have faced expensive so-called “builder’s remedy” litigation. We are proud to say Bernards Township has avoided getting involved in such expensive litigation.
As noted in the Township’s October 29th 2019 Affordable Housing Taskforce report, the majority of Bernards Townships’ current residential development is being driven by court mandated affordable housing obligations. Under the Affordable Housing Law and associated mandates, our local zoning laws are preempted and municipalities are forced to comply. In our view the courts should not be deciding how our local zoning works.
Overdevelopment is not something that Bernards Township can easily or successfully address alone. The solution lies in Trenton and Kate and I are committed to working with the Township Committee, other Mayors and municipalities and our elected State officials, including the Governors’ office, to find the appropriate solutions that make sense and have bipartisan support.
We can only make progress on the challenges of overdevelopment and appropriate solutions for meeting future affordable housing mandates if things change in Trenton.
I am fortunate that my running mate, Kate Grochala, is an attorney knowledgeable about Affordable Housing Legislation. We encourage everyone to review the Affordable Housing Taskforce report which is available on our Bernards Township website. The
Taskforce report includes information on how to contact the appropriate New Jersey State Officials and elected representatives. This is especially important during this critical election year.
TAXES: Kate and I are fiscal conservatives and we will work hard to control taxes and keep Bernards Township 100% debt free. Avoiding debt is just one of the ways Bernards Township controls taxes.
When municipalities borrow, they are robbing the future for the present. Every taxpayer dollar spent on interest is a dollar wasted, a dollar that could be spent on something else, a dollar that you could be spending on your family and your future. Through good Republican leadership and vision, Bernards Township has avoided debt.
In fact, our town is a beacon of fiscal responsibility, planning and success. Over the past 15 years the average municipal tax bill in NJ has soared by 76%. By contrast, over the past 15 years Bernards Township’s municipal tax bill has risen less than 18%. That’s less than 1.4% per year! This has been achieved by following a debt-free, “pay-as-you go” philosophy based upon conservative budgeting and long-term vision.
In New Jersey, your local property tax bill is comprised of 3 basic parts: County Tax, School Tax and Municipal Tax. The Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders sets the County Tax, the Bernards Township Board of Education sets the School Tax and the Township Committee is responsible for and sets only the Municipal Tax. As noted on your Tax Bill, the distribution of taxes by major category for 2020 is: School Levy (estimate) 65.9%; County Levy (estimate) 17.8% and Municipal Levy 14.6%.
We urge all residents to understand how they are taxed at the Municipal level. The Bernards Township website has a concise section on your property taxes and how they are assessed. As Republicans, we hold the line on out-of-control increased government spending and here in Bernards Township, we have the track record to prove it.
Looking ahead to the future, paying as you go, carrying no debt, keeping adequate reserves on hand, maintaining accurate and current tax base valuations, exploring shared services with other municipalities, sound long term planning, and vision are the keys to good governance including managing the effects of unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently experiencing. This is the approach BT has taken and should continue to follow. Had it not been for our excellent financial position and exceptional long-term planning, we could have very easily been in a much different and difficult scenario.
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here in Bernards but we have to be vigilant. All freedoms, including freedom from debt and high taxes have to be guarded and defended.
SAFETY: Our town is among the safest in New Jersey and in fact the entire United States. This is a testament to the men and women in blue, as well as all of our first responders, who tirelessly serve our community for the benefit of every resident, every day and every night. Kate Grochala and I will continue our strong and unwavering support for our police and other first responders. We will always ensure that they have the necessary backing and resources in order for them to maintain the excellent services they deliver regularly.
As the husband of a Bernards Township Police Officer, I am fully aware of the sacrifices our men and women in blue, as well as all of our first responders, make every single day on our behalf. I would also like to note that many of our first responders are in fact volunteers. This includes the excellent services of our volunteer fire department, rescue squad and EMT and ambulance services. These men and women are on the job day and night protecting you and all of us every day of the year. We all owe them our gratitude, thanks and vote of confidence.
Rest assured that as your Mayor and Candidate for Bernards Township Committee I take my responsibilities very seriously. The health, safety and welfare of each and every Bernards Township resident is my number one priority. Safety is one of the many reasons why Bernards Township is recognized as not only one of the safest places to live in the United States, but also why Bernards Township has been recognized as one of the best places to live. Safety and the high quality of life we enjoy in our town go hand in hand, and Kate and I will do everything necessary to continue to keep it that way.
Why do you feel voters should select you for a term on the Bernards Township Committee?
Under solid Republican leadership, Bernards Township is an should remain a model town which has been recognized as one of the safest and best places in the entire United States of America to live and raise a family. That Republican leadership should continue. In addition, Kate and I have the necessary experience and qualifications to continue to make Bernards Township one of the strongest, safest and most welcoming communities in the entire Nation.