BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — Former Belmar Councilman James Bean says he is seeking an independent bid for a borough council seat so that residents can “have a choice on Election Day.”

“The new mayor and council were elected to repair the financial damage that was incurred over the past eight years, but their increased budget with a 21 percent tax hike does not align with how I would have approached solving the problem,” said the former Republican councilman in a statement, following his filing of an independent candidate. “It seems the taxpayers are taking it all on the chin while the municipality goes on with business as usual.”

Bean was referring to the council’s recent adoption of a $16.62 million budget that included a $1.4 million increase in municipal taxes — after eight consecutive years without a tax hike under the previous Democratic administration led by then-Mayor Matthew Doherty.

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Newly elected Republican Mayor Mark Walsifer and his GOP-led council said this year’s tax hike was necessary because the borough has been relying on one-time revenue sources and borough reserves to balance the budget, as it struggles with how to pay down a $36 million debt, replace aging equipment and infrastructure, pay legal and other professional fees associated with lawsuits and projects from previous years, and meet contractual pay hikes for municipal employees.

READ MORE: Belmar Council OKs $1.4 Million Tax Hike, Forensic Audit of Former Administration’s Financial Books Under Way

Bean, who served on the borough council from 2012 to 2015 and lost a bid for the mayoralty against Doherty in 2015, said he did not vote in favor of three budgets during that time “because of the increased spending backed by questionable revenue sources. I always fought tooth and nail for fiscal solvency and I’m not going to stop now.”

In the November 5 general election, he is seeking to fill one of two three-year council seats  currenty held by Republicans James McCracken and Thomas Carvelli. The Democratic challengers are newcomers Cheryl Russo and Maggie McBride.

In response to Bean’s candidacy, GOPers McCracken and Thomas Carvelli, who are seeking re-election after winning their bids last November to complete unexpired terms, said in a statement that they welcomed a diverse field of candidates, including Bean, to the race.

“Belmar is at a crossroads and faces significant challenges, which is precisely why we are seeking re-election — because we are willing to tackle those challenges and put the interests of our community first,” they said.

Although Democratic challengers— — had no comment on Bean’s candidacy, they previously issued a statement voicing their opposition to the municipal tax hike.

“We all need to put party politics aside and join together in this fight. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all need to work together against this 21.7 percent tax increase,” Russo said.

Calling the tax hike “a declaration of war on middle class families, seniors living on a fixed income, renters and small business owners in Belmar,” McBride added, “There is no reason for this tax increase, aside from gross financial mismanagement and callousness of the mayor and council.”

Final Primary Vote Tallies for Belmar and Lake Como

In uncontested races in the June 4 primary election, voters tapped their party’s candidates to run for Belmar and Lake Como council seats in the November 5 general election. Here are the final vote tallies from the Monmouth County Board of Elections, updated as of June 8.

In Belmar’s Republican primary, McCracken and Carvelli received 99 and 92 votes, respectively. By district, the vote breakdown was as follows:

  • District 1 – McCracken, 9; Carvelli, 8; write-in candidates, 3
  • District 2 – McCracken, 9; Carvelli, 9
  • District 3 – McCracken, 10; Carvelli, 9
  • District 4 – McCracken, 18; Carvelli, 17
  • District 5 – McCracken, 16; Carvelli, 16
  • Mail-In Ballots – McCracken, 36; Carvelli, 32; write-in candidates, 1
  • Provisional Ballots: McCracken, 1; Carvelli, 1

Elected last year to complete one-year unexpired terms, both McCracken and Carvelli are looking to fill the seats for full three-year terms.

On the Democratic ticket, Russo and McBride, garnered 141 and 143 votes, respectively, in the primary election. Here is the vote tally by district:

  • District 1 – Russo, 20; McBride, 20
  • District 2 – Russo, 19; McBride, 19; write-in candidates, 1
  • District 3 – Russo, 25; McBride, 26; write-in candidates, 7
  • District 4 – Russo, 17; McBride, 19
  • District 5 – Russo, 20; McBride, 20
  • Mail-In Ballots – Russo, 37; McBride, 36
  • Provisional Ballots: Russo, 3; McBride, 3

In Lake Como, two Democratic incumbents who are running unopposed for three-year seats on the governing body received the following votes:

  • Council President Douglas Witte, who is seeking his 10th term, with 49 votes.
  • Hawley Scull, who is running a third time, with 47 votes.

No petitions were filed by Republicans.

For complete election results for all seats in New Jersey, Monmouth County and on the municipal level, visit the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office website by clicking here.

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