Questions & Answers from Township Committee Candidate Joel Schwartz

joel sQ: Why should I vote at all. Candidates always make promises during elections but when they get elected, they seem to forget who voted them into office.

A: I agree that if a candidate makes campaign promises and does not even try to deliver on his/her promise, they don’t deserve to be re-elected. That’s the beauty of democracy. You are given a 3 year term to work on your campaign promises. If you’re not committed to follow through with your promises during your term then you don’t deserve to be re-elected. That is exactly what I refer to as accountability. But we need to remind ourselves that accountability can only be implemented if we go out and vote.

Q. These days, the pattern seems to be here in Lakewood that when an investor spots an area that has some trees and greenery, they start seeing dollar signs and the next thing you know a bulldozer shows up and another sardine style development pops up. Are you willing and can you stop this madness.

A. Having been on the Lakewood zoning board for 3 years. I’ve become very familiar with the different zones and zoning laws that apply. These zones need to be properly protected. For an example, when an individual purchases a home in a neighborhood that is zoned R-12 which allows you to build no more than a single family on a required minimum 12000 sf parcel, they would expect that zoning laws will protect their investment and their quality of life. I’ve never voted to grant a variance to an applicant against the will of the neighbors. Having areas re-zoned against the will of the residents living there is just not right. Unfortunately, this has become the norm here in Lakewood and that’s why people lost trust in our elected officials. Should I get elected I will continue to fight to protect our residents and the zones they live in.

Q. I know that you are running for township committee which may not be related to the following question, but you are a Board of Ed member. Given the current busing issue and the removal of courtesy busing, can you address this issue and possible solutions.

A. Over the last few years, the Lakewood BOE has seen unprecedented annual student growth of nearly 10%, year over year. As it now appears, we will open schools next year with over 32,000 Lakewood students attending both public and non-public schools. That makes Lakewood the largest suburban school district in the state when you consider total students transported. That growth has been very challenging, especially when considering the pressure on the local school budget.

Governor Christie has already announced that he is “freezing” state aid for 2014/15 at the 2013/14 level. Even though we will be growing by nearly 10%, our state aid will remain flat in both regular and special ed transportation.

Finally, in spite of multiple state auditors, internal auditors, business administrators and knowledgeable board members repeatedly going over every budget line, we are still left significantly short in dollars on the revenue side. Short of raising taxes more than the 2% cap (which the Board was not in favor of) the only choice was to address the expenditure side.

The State Department of Education has directed that we look at the “non-mandated” services that Lakewood provides to cut our expenditures, including “Courtesy Busing”. These are children who live 2.0/2.5 miles or less from their schools (depending on their grade). We had over 10,000 students receive courtesy busing this year. Under the supervision of the new State Monitor, Mr. Michael Azzara, we have finalized an agreement that will provide courtesy busing to children from Primary through Third Grade.

I recognize that we must try new things to see if we can save some money and still deliver good services. After careful review, I along with Lakewood’s BOE Transportation director Gus Kakavas initiated the purchase of 5 large school buses and have our own Lakewood Board of Education bus drivers deliver many route services previously done by contractors. We have specifically targeted the most expensive of those contracted routes so that we can maximize potential savings. I believe this 5-bus trial, along with our 8 mini-vans already performing special routes, will result in over $1,000,000 in annual savings. If the trial is successful (as I believe it will be), we will continue the bus purchases until we feel our savings opportunities have been “maxed-out”. In any event, we will continue to explore every cost saving opportunity so the local tax levy can be less burdened while we continue to deliver the best educational services possible in these very challenging budget times.

Although negotiations with the private schools are still ongoing in an effort to resolve the issue, as it stands now, we will start next school year with limited courtesy busing. In the event that negotiations don’t materialize, the board may be inclined to put the rest of “courtesy busing” on as a public question on the November ballot for the voters to decide.

Q. I just received my tax bill and speaking to friends and neighbors, it seems that everyone’s tax bill just skyrocketed. With so much new construction shouldn’t it go down?

A. There are many factors that go into account when it comes to your tax bill. Some of them are simple and others more complex. The simple answers are the following,

1 Decline in commercial ratables which we are constantly losing

2. Reassessments of certain areas. There were some areas in certain senior developments that were re-assessed to a lower rate, hence redistributing the tax burden to the rest of us

3. Not all homes generate a net profit to the towns coffers. If more services are provided that the taxes paid in for that particular home then the Township must make it up elsewhere

4. Finally, as I’ve said many times, the term “fiscally responsible” is not one that should be used lightly. Should I get elected I will take a very serious approach to being extremely fiscally responsible in the way the township spends our tax money.

Thank you for submitting your questions. I am always receptive to comments and suggestions, as I believe that the only way to properly govern a town is with the input of the public. I am looking forward to your support and I hope to serve you on the Township Committee.

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  1. Is Joel Ultra Orthodox? I’m just wondering because i don’t see a Kippah in any of the pictures.
    Upon looking at the other candidates i don’t either see a Kippa, so maybe it’s just for advertising.

  2. The big question is that with all the new construction going on the past few years, and all the millions of dollars in adding tax revenue why do the Taxes keep on going up, the amount of services that the new construction homes need doesn’t come close to the added cost to the town. .. Whoever can answer that has my Vote?

  3. Without getting into politics, I’d like to point something out. The most Joel commits to is putting in his best effort. There are no promises that he WILL accomplish anything more than the others. If he is elected, and politics hinder his well intentioned efforts, are we going to accuse him as well. See the pattern, candidates say they’ll try and get held up on politics. What’s to say it’ll be different now? I don’t see the logic of those that are saying we need to vote new people in because the old ones didn’t come through. Again, who’s to say Joel will be different, all he says is he’ll try? Nothing more than the others. We need more than “I promise to try hard” to believe in potential change.

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