WAYNE, NJ – November 5 is Election Day and all six Wayne Township Ward seats are up for election this cycle. On September 26, the League of Women Voters held their candidates forum at the Wayne Town Hall. During the forum, all the candidates in attendance answered seven questions that came from the audience.
This is the fifth in a series of seven articles summarizing the answers given by each of the candidates in attendance, as well as answers obtained exclusively by TAPinto Wayne from candidates who could not participate at the live event.
Participating at The Forum:
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Al Sadowski
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Dianne Douthat
- Republican incumbent, President of the Council Franco Mazzei
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Karen Dowizc-Haas
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Joe Scuralli
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Ken Tahan
- Budget Hawk challenger, Candidate Christian Smith
- Republican incumbent, Councilman Aileen Rivera
- Democrat challenger, Candidate Fran Ritter
Did Not Participate
Could not attend:
- Ward One Republican incumbent, Councilman Rich Jasterzbski
Not allowed to participate because of League of Women Voter “empty chair debate” rules:
- Ward One Democrat challenger, Candidate Arlene Sullivan
- Ward Six Republican incumbent, Councilman Jonathan Ettman
Though all three candidates who could not participate in the forum were invited to provide answers to the seven questions to TAPinto Wayne, only the Democrat Ward One candidate, Arlene Sullivan, did so. Her answers will be a part of this series.
Question 5: The high property taxes are driving long-time residents out of Wayne. Though high taxes are an issue for all, for seniors on fixed incomes, this is a major concern. What will you do to change this and keep our long-time residents here in Wayne?
Ward Four Democrat Candidate Ken Tahan spoke first: “It is a problem because many of our seniors are leaving Wayne and going south after their children grow up and leave the house. We need a system where seniors are receiving a certain amount of credit from the town to keep them in Wayne. I would certainly ensure doing that and putting together a program to help the citizens out.”
Ward Five Democrat Candidate Fran Ritter: “The responsibility falls on the Township to make sure that it keeps up its business development and does other things that so that seniors, when they do get their freeze, there’s some kind of net-off or set-off with the higher rateables that come in from more aggressive business development, where you can decrease the level where seniors are taxed.”
“We’re going to have to find ways to accommodate this community as it ages. When I get on the council, this will be one of the first initiatives so that Wayne seniors have the opportunity to stay with their families in the town that they love.”
Ward Five Republican Incumbent Aileen Rivera: “First of all, our town has a bond-rating of AAA with Moodys. Every resident pays their taxes and it gets split up three different ways, not necessarily equally: 54% goes to Board of Education, 26% goes to the County, and only 20 cents on the dollar stays with the town on a municipal level. Our town does a lot with the twenty cents per dollar they get from residents that pay their taxes.”
“On top of that we have grants which is a savings for residents. We have received millions of dollars in grants since I have been in office. I have actively collaborated with the town administration to secure millions of dollars in grants to help offset taxes increases. A savings for hardworking taxpayers.”
Ward Two Republican Incumbent Al Sadowski: In ten years on the council, I think I’ve, just about, knocked on every door in the Second Ward and the two biggest issues that I hear are: Speeding and Taxes. It’s not just seniors who’d love to stay in the house where they raised their families, but their kids move back here and can’t afford to stay because taxes are a problem.”
“The township’s portion of taxes received is less than the county. I’d love to see us fix that. We get a lot more for your money out of Wayne Township, we plow all the streets, we provide police and all the other services. A high part of our taxes goes to the schoolboard, but the reason people move to Wayne is because of the education system.”
“Senior citizens have a property tax freeze program available and in some cases, they are allowed to have renters to help them out. Would I like to see the town do more for seniors? Of course.”
Ward Two Democrat Candidate Dianne Douthat: “There are two ways we can help our seniors and all our residents. One way is to do more shared services with our county, as well as with other towns. New Jersey is offering grants to help move this along. We can bundle purchasing commodities like salt, asphalt and fuel. We could also bundle IT and phone services and things like snow-removal contracts.”
“In Monmouth County, the County cleans out all the catch basins in all the towns and saves a chunk of money.”
“We also need to advocate down in Trenton to get the money we need for our schools as well as for our programs in town. In 2010, we had a 91% cut to our school budget. The town council complained about it, but did they go down to Trenton and advocate for us? It’s really sad that they didn’t because at that time one of our assemblymen was Scott Rumana, our former Mayor. Why didn’t they go down there and say: ‘Scott, we need your help!’?. You need to communicate with the other levels of our government to reign in taxes in our town.”
Council President and Ward Three Republican Incumbent Franco Mazzei: “We have to continue to support the Administration and their streamlining of operating expenses, shared services, focusing on three to five-year outlooks on keeping a focused, clear budget.”
“in 2015, the average household tax increase was $11.22, in 2016 a zero percent increase. A negative increase in 2017. $18.65 in 2018, and $17.00 in 2019, but we still have to do more. We have to support the administration in their effort to continue providing the high level of services that our seniors and all our residents expect and want because everyone wants to stay. Not only the seniors, but everyone.”
Ward Three Democrat Candidate Karen Dowicz-Haas: “It’s a huge problem. Taxpayers are fleeing. There are four things we can be doing: We can lower expenses; raise revenues, we could also look at our priorities; and utilize shared services for administrative consolidation. The key is that we have to work with the County, and sometimes the Republicans don’t like to do that because the county is Democrat. So, we need to look at that too.
Ward Four Budge Hawk Candidate Christian Smith: “Taxes on the surface on the local level are flat. It’s when you peel the onion back a little bit that you see that the debt is growing. It stands at $7.3 Million and, incredibly, the reserve for uncollected taxes stands at $7Million. That’s crazy that there’s $7million dollars on the table, uncollected. I would focus on those two things immediately.”
Ward Four Repbulican Incumbent Joe Scuralli: “Since I first ran for office, I have seen that seniors have to face a terrible tax burden and I understand that all of our residents do as well. However, I have to say that If you’re going to run for town council, you should know how the government works. The fact of the matter is that only 20 cents on the dollar goes to the Township of Wayne.”
“The State is smart; the County is smart. They make the towns do the dirty work and collect their taxes.”
“You’re paying $73million a year to Passaic county. Can you tell me three things that you get for that? We hear a lot of complaints about the county roads. We hear a lot of complaints about a lot of different issues. Why is the county sucking more dollars out of your paycheck every year than Wayne Township needs to fund its own operations? It makes no sense blaming the township for all these other entities that collect.”