Six candidates are running 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. 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: John O'Sullivan
John O'Sullivan has served on the council for the last three years and has lived in South Brunswick for 23 years. He is former Vice-Chair of the Environmental Commission, the Civilian Emergency Response Team Member of the Year in 2011, and a member of the New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association.
"Before I was elected I was sitting out in the audience at council meetings for over 10 years asking questions," O'Sullivan said. "I bring another point of view to the council, asking different questions and giving my opinion on whether things are a good or bad idea. We listen to each other and hope we've made a difference. I'm looking out for the township and their concerns, like getting traffic signs on Stouts Lane for the students walking from the high school."
O'Sullivan said he prioritizes listening to the residents of South Brunswick and making sure their concerns are brought to the council.
"Working on fixing the roads and sewers is one thing I've brought up and will continue to bring up," he said. "For the past couple of years I keep harping on fixing the roads and public service then coming in and digging them up a month later for their work, so we need to get coordinated about digging up roads that have already been dug up. I continue to bring up issues at meetings that citizens ask me, like the red barn on Ridge Road that was coming down. I ask what can be done to help move things along."
with no tax rate increase.
"We try to keep taxes down, which we did with the flat tax rate this year. The council looks at the budget we're presented with by the township professionals and we make recommendations," O'Sullivan said. "We look at the 300 page budget and work within the constraints of our priorities, which is the health, safety and welfare of the township. Sometimes you make people happy and sometimes you don't. When you become a councilman you have to worry about the town as a whole and do the best you can, that's the way I look at it."
Of issue for the upcoming year will be the continued influx of tax appeals. 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 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. 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.
"We need to continue to bring in businesses, so we've set up a blue ribbon committee that sits with large business owners to see what these people say about ordinances that need to be looked at and work with them to see how we can improve things," O'Sullivan said. "But we have to get more businesses in to help with taxes."
O'Sullivan said the township must continue to lean on legislators to keep the project a priority.
"Route 1 has been a problem for years under administrations of both Democrats and Republicans," O'Sullivan said. "I'd like to know who we ticked off in Trenton that have kept us at two lanes on Route 1. What I've done is worked with (16th District Assemblywoman) Donna Simon to look at fixing all of the traffic problems we have. She went to the Department of Transportation Commissioner and presented her ideas and is waiting to hear back. We need to keep pushing our legislators, but the problem is money. It's a long process and there are no quick answers. We need to keep banging away at this to move this higher on the list of priorities because it's a quality of life issue."
O'Sullivan said if reelected he will continue to emphasize the concerns of the community to the council and will keep quality of life issues on the township agenda.
"We're problem solvers for the citizens of South Brunswick and I feel proud of that," he said. "When I get phone calls, I go and talk to the administration and try to help people with their problems or direct them to the right department. Or go up to the state level if people don't know who to turn to. I'm somebody the residents of this town can talk to about their concerns."
Other South Brunswick Township Council candidate profiles for the Nov. 6 election:
Meet the Candidates: Joseph Camarota
Meet the Candidates: Charles Carley
Meet the Candidates: Josephine "Jo" Hochman
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