Eight candidates filed to run in the November general election for three, three-year terms on the South Brunswick Township Council. The terms of incumbent Democratic Councilmen Joseph Camarota, Charles Carley, and Republican John O'Sullivan have expired. Both Camarota, of Kendall Park, and Carley, of Kendall Park, filed to run for reelection, along with Josephine "Jo" Hochman, on the Middlesex County Democratic Organization ticket. Also filing to run, under the Township Democrats ticket, were former South Brunswick Mayor Debra Johnson, of Monmouth Junction, and Shilpn Patel, of Monmouth Junction.
Voters will cast their ballots on June 5 in the Democratic primary to decide which three candidates will move on to the November general election.
On the GOP side, three candidates filed to run under the Middlesex County Republican Organization. In addition to incumbent O'Sullivan, of Monmouth Junction, are Michael Kushwara, of Kendall Park, and Paul Saltin, of Monmouth Junction.
Meet the Candidates: Charles Carley
Carley, a civil engineer, has served on the council since 2005. He previously served on the township Zoning Board of Adjustments and was a member of the Environmental Commission and Transportation Advisory Board.
with no tax rate increase. Carley said the council must continue to look for ways to decrease governmental administration costs to keep future tax increases manageable.
"Because of the environment we live in, my top priority for the past couple of years has been the budget to make sure our part is stable," Carley said. "We have the three-headed monster (municipal, school, and county taxes), so we want to make sure we keep a lid on our side. We've dealt with tax appeals, a sluggish economy, increased pension obligations and reduced energy receipts tax, so that's been job one.
"Job one-A would be to encourage a business environment where people want to come into South Brunswick and set up shop to employ folks with good paying jobs. I'd like to see the 8A area take off with a nucleus of outfits that could be a pretty good area for high-end tech companies."
Of issue for the upcoming year will be the In 2012, 391 tax appeals were filed in the township, up from about 180 appeals in 2011. In 2011, approximately 100 companies successfully sued the township for a tax reduction, which resulted in the loss of over $100 million in ratables. Of that total, $98.5 million came from commercial and industrial tax appeals.
The Township Council has taken steps to try and reduce the impact of tax appeals by lowering the threshold for settlements on tax appeals. Previously, any settlement that was greater than $50,000 had to be brought by the South Brunswick Tax Assessor to the Township Council for approval. At a meeting in April, the council lowered the settlement limit from $50,000 to $25,000.
"Within the framework of the law, within reason, we don't want to roll over and play dead so these appeals are not easy money for attorneys," Carley said. For the attorneys who bundle these appeals, they're basically sending letters to people saying there's free money at town hall. We changed our procedures understanding that we don't have control over the judgments, but changing the procedures can have a beneficial impact. We want to take a more conservative approach so we're not considered easy pickings."
The township ratable base dropped 4.3 percent to approximately $3.6 billion in 2010. South Brunswick experienced another decline in ratables of about $5.4 million (2.3 percent) last year. To improve the township ratable base, Carley said the township must focus on bringing the right kind of businesses into South Brunswick.
"Over the last couple of years, since about 2006-07, we changed the zoning requirements in industrial areas south of Ridge Road and east of Route 130," he said. "Warehouse and distribution jobs are okay, but they're not great. We thought we had an opportunity to tweak the zone and get some industrial manufacturing in there and that's been working out. It's a slow progression but we like what we're seeing. We sat down last week with a pharmaceutical company doing research with new approaches to medication delivery, so we're seeing some successes there with the vacancies around 8A.
"Those are the things I like. I'm not a big fan of a new gas station on Route 1 or Route 130 because we have plenty."
Carley said even during a down economy, the township has been able to attract new high-end companies to South Brunswick, such as the Infragistics software company near Exit 8A.
WithCarley said South Brunswick must continue to lean on legislators to keep the project on the state's radar, in addition to new projects to mitigate traffic issues on township roads. The township approved a new Park and Ride for Independence Way, but is seeking a new location for a Park and Ride that was approved for Beekman Road due to traffic issues.
"We're looking to partner with New Jersey Transit and put a Park and Ride by Independence Way, but we're sort of struggling with a Park and Ride in the northern part of town at either end of Beekman Road," he said. "I like Park and Rides because they're used by local people. It gives us the opportunity to have a lot of bus stops in town and take people off the roads.
"With Route 1 and the changing (gubernatorial) administrations, the state has been hot and cold. We have to keep working with legislators to impress the importance of widening the road and continue with the improvement projects we have in the pipeline. We acquired property for improvements to New Road, but since then the project has been hung up. I'm optimistic the state will get going and approve the New Road improvements and after that we'll get the other intersections up and down Route 1."
Were he to be re-elected, Carley said his top priorities would be an addition to the South Brunswick Senior Center for a health and wellness component, continuing to look for ways to streamline governmental administration costs, and to liberalize permitted uses in the industrial area of town to bring in better paying jobs.
"Businesses need to recognize the new posture of the municipal government and see that it benefits them to make a substantial investment in South Brunswick," Carley said. "I'm pleased with how we've progressed in this economy. It hasn't been turbo-charged but we're not hemorrhaging outfits. We took a bop on the head when Pfizer left but we've maintained a moderate pace and haven't hemorrhaged on the backend."