Taxes - The reason I got into local politics was taxes. When I first arrived in town my taxes were $6500. Soon they were $7500, then $8500 then $9500. Then I got involved. I joined a group called Taxpayers United in Franklin in 2003 and have been to virtually every Council meeting since. I pushed the BOE to televise their meetings and to have an outside review of their budget. It created openness and saved millions. Council followed suit. Since then I have been involved with televising or streaming of Zoning, Planning board, Library board, Sewage authority, most civilian boards and I’m currently pushing the Freeholders to provide their videos to Franklin TV.
In 2009 I was elected to the 3rd Ward Council seat and took office in 2010 just as the Great Recession was taking hold. The Town was projected to run out of money in 2 ½ years. Unfortunately to balance the budget I asked Council to, of all things, raise taxes. But Council and I met the challenge with a large cut in spending as well. These measures saved the town’s finances so now we are not only solvent, but also have a AA+ bond rating. The budget was $60M in 2009, the year before I took office, ten years later it is $61.5 million. A 2.5% increase over 10 year despite 19% inflation.
I became Mayor 3 ½ years ago and for the last three years the Municipal Tax (the only tax Council directly controls) has increased 0%, 0.5% and 0%. This while inflation was 2.5%.
Yet we are still providing services. We are paving roads 4 times faster than when I took office and are paying for much of it with cash rather than bonding to save you money. Upgrading our water system. We are building a youth center with a northern branch to the Library. In the middle of the town (at Consolata Mission) we are building a Community Center using shared services with our school system and we are planning to build, rather than rent, a southern branch to our Library, which will again save money.
Our purchase of Consolata Mission prevented hundreds of homes from being built, allowing us to save the School System $1.5M and additionally we hope this location will be the home of a YMCA. I am proud of the fact that my idea to approach the Consolata Fathers has been such a benefit to the people of our community.
We are attracting new business to help offset residential taxes. These businesses, such as the Amazon facility coming to town, will put roughly a 2.3% downward pressure on your total property tax (all things being equal).
Opportunities for our youth - The youth center, community center, library branches, YMCA and the many parks we are building are bringing new learning opportunities to our youth in the form of recreation and training. They, along with our schools, are the foundation of our youth initiative. Everyone on Council, particularly Councilwoman François, have been instrumental in moving all of this forward.