Dear Berkeley Heights Republican and Unaffiliated Voters,
I have been a resident of Berkeley Heights for 29 years. We moved here in 1988 because we found a town that provided the things that all of us desire- great schools, pleasant surroundings, a safe environment, and residents who care about each other and the community. I have always told people that choosing Berkeley Heights was one of the best decisions our family ever made.
A community succeeds and thrives in large part because of its citizens--especially our dedicated volunteers who choose to help and serve our town in a variety of meaningful ways. Like so many past and current residents I volunteered my time and effort. First as a Rec and PAL coach, school PTO member, traveling soccer coach, snack shack helper, and then for over 12 years as a member of the Board of Education, including serving as president and vice-president.
I first ran for the Board of Education in 2004. One of my opponents was Tom Foregger. I didn't know him until then but as the campaign progressed I learned that Tom was essentially opposed to almost anything the schools wanted to do that might involve a cost. One of our issues at the time was some new sports activities that were taking hold in many other communities--boys and girls lacrosse and fencing, and ice hockey. Back then we couldn't be sure if these would be activities that were simply desired by a limited group or something that would enhance the overall school experience like so many of our other extra-curricular activities. My approach and that of the Board was that these programs be initially parent-funded to prove their viability before the Board would provide full funding in its budget to operate them. Tom's position was that we had enough programs and we shouldn't consider spending anything more, regardless of how popular they might be. In case you don't know, all of those "new " sports have proven to be highly successful both in terms of student participation and performance. Don't get me wrong. I dislike paying taxes as much as anyone, but I recognize that good schools and good communities do not flourish if you don't invest in them.
However, back to Mr. Foregger. In that 2004 election, there were three seats open and the voters chose not to elect him. For a number of years Tom came to several Board of Education meetings, particularly when we were discussing the annual School Budget. While every citizen has the right to question and challenge how their tax dollars are spent, Tom consistently argued against most new initiatives, despite the fact that our cost per pupil was below the state average and we were always within our budget cap. In fact, there were many years where we were even below 2%, and twice adopted a budget that actually lowered the school tax rate.
This brings me to my reason for this letter. There is a movement by a few individuals in this town making promises of tax savings via the election of Mr. Foregger and his running mate, John Leo. To date they and their candidates have offered nothing more than generalizations as to how this would be accomplished. They are ignoring the needs that have been well documented over the last several years with respect to our municipal building, our library, our police department, a place for our seniors and our public works department. A community cannot kick the can down the road indefinitely. Some of you who haven't lived here too many years do not know the old firehouse that existed as a part of our municipal complex instead of the modern, efficient building which is now located on Hamilton Avenue. Before it was built, there were those who said it was unnecessary. Aren't we glad that these volunteers now have an appropriate and functional facility? Empty promises do not solve problems that need solutions. While I disagree with Tom's positions on our municipal needs and practices, I am more dismayed by the vitriolic actions of a few of his purported supporters, who have chosen to portray our elected township officials as "autocrats" and spenders. They ignore the more than twenty public meetings held to discuss and receive input on the conceptual projects. They ignore the many changes and modifications made as a result of that input. They apparently lack the foresight to recognize that some of the mandated development will result in significant new tax revenue and changes to the downtown that will benefit all of us.
Township elected officials are entrusted to manage our municipal governmental affairs. Two of those officials, Council members Jeanne Kingsley and Marc Faecher are seeking re-election and need your vote in the June 6 primary election. I regularly attend the Council meetings, have come to know both of these individuals and have seen the time and dedication that they devote to their responsibilities. Marc's efforts in helping the township reduce its required number of affordable housing units due to a NJ Supreme Court mandate are nothing short of a miracle. The time and expertise he provided cannot be over stated. It has saved us tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses. Jeanne's efforts in improving the overall ambience of our community has been significant: sidewalk and park improvements, new lighting on Springfield Ave., the Winter Walk and annual Street Fairs, just to name a few, are visible evidence of what she has accomplished. They and the rest of the current Council's negotiations with the YMCA have saved the Community Pool (and will provide for a brand new pool within 6 years), and a new and better YMCA facility on land that could have been earmarked for further residential development. Tom and his supporters were either silent or opposed to this endeavor.
Berkeley Heights has two top quality members of its Council that are running for re-election and who have proven themselves to be absolutely dedicated to making this community an even better place than it is now. Without any reservation, I strongly urge you to vote for Kingsley and Faecher on June 6.
John C. Sincaglia