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: Paul Saltin
Paul Saltin is a retired real estate appraiser who owned his own company, SAS Appraisal Services, for 10 years. Prior to that he spent spent decades as a broadcasting sales manager for various TV stations and cable companies. Saltin, who has lived in South Brunswick for four years, said he is running because after a long career of moving around from place to place, he has finally settled down and has the time to pursue public service.
"I've always been interested in politics, but I had 23 moves over my career and was never in one place long enough to be able to act on it," Saltin said. "Now that I'm in South Brunswick, this is my last move and no business opportunities can take me away. So I now have an opportunity to serve where I was unable to do so in the past."
Saltin holds a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University and was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces where he achieved the rank of Sergeant. He said his experience in the business world makes him an ideal candidate for the council.
"I know how to negotiate and I know how to investigate to reach a win-win proposal," he said. "In this market, you have to see when requests come in that they're prioritized. There's money in the bucket from taxes and people come in and say we want this and it seems like the politicians just put their hand in the bucket and hand it out, or if we don't have enough money then we take out a bond. It's like if you get a coupon in the mail where you can save 30 percent on an item, but you're only saving 30 percent if you actually needed that item to begin with.
"If you were going to do what the coupon was offering and you have someone to share the cost that's great, but if you didn't want it or need it, and on top of that you're going to borrow money through bonding, then you've spent 70 percent when you weren't going to do that. With my business background, to survive you couldn't spend more than you were taking in, and I think that will serve the township well."
with no tax rate increase. Saltin said there are only so many cuts that can be made, and the township needs to focus on growing income.
"It's politically nice to say we can do this and that, but the reality is as new contracts come in they have to be honored by the township and we are going to have to raise taxes sometimes," Saltin said. "If you keep cutting services and departments, you create a house of cards and then you get a huge storm and you can't do anything. You can't cut the police to an unhealthy level, you can't keep cutting the road department or public works. The biggest burden we have is the tax issue from the school board, so if we can help through a joint effort to relieve that burden, look for ways of economizing, and make sure we get more money through the business community, we can place less of a burden on homeowners."
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.
"Having been an appraiser for a number of years, I think we have to put an emphasis on that department because it's the only department that generates any kind of revenue," Saltin said. "How can the assessor's office handle the burden of business and residential appeals if they're not properly staffed, then we lose a lot of money. That department above all others needs to be properly staffed so the proper amount of time can be devoted to defend the town's position on tax appeals."
Saltin said to improve the township's ratable base, South Brunswick must refocus its energy on the Industry and Commerce Commission and establish people who can work full time to grow business in town instead of on a volunteer basis.
"I'd like to hold discussions with the various chambers and business organizations out there and determine what they'd like to see from the town in terms of expediting development and growth," he said. "Do they find the town's practices or policies hindering growth? Do they find our personnel cooperative or not? I want to reach out to various businesses and the organizations that represent them to get their input as to what we could do to make the process more streamlined."
Saltin said the township must do more than lean on state representatives to make sure the project is a priority.
"How is it possible that Plainsboro and North Brunswick have been widened but South Brunswick sits here at two lanes," he noted. "From my perspective it wasn't until two Republicans got into the (16th District Assembly representing South Brunswick) that the (Beekman Road-Route 27 intersection improvements) got underway. The priority of the council has to be that when somebody calls to complain, you have them call their assembly person and ask why since the 1980's have you not been able to do anything in South Brunswick?
"By putting more Republicans in the (state) senate and assembly with interests on part of the town, we can be more proactive. We can work with adjacent communities, Princeton in particular, to come up with a plan to get traffic flowing. We need to work with county and state officials at all levels to get answers as to how can you keep this plan on the drawing board and not do anything."
Saltin said if elected, he will bring a business perspective from an extensive history negotiating deals that benefit all parties involved without partisan bickering.
"I don't drink the Kool-Aid from either side. We're individuals and you have to look at what each individual's ideals are and how they approach problem solving," he said. "That's all being on the council is, problem solving. I was in broadcasting for 40 years and spent 10 years in appraisals, and there has to be a win-win deal if I'm going to get involved. I'm not looking to hurt anyone or take anything away from anyone. I always look to do a deal where everyone wins and that includes the residents of South Brunswick.
"People need to look at the talents a candidate brings to the table and not the fact they've been sitting in the chair for six to ten years. If you're doing things the same way you were 10 years ago then you're not progressing with the times. I bring a fresh view and this would be a full time thing for me. I've come to the part of my life where I can give back and I've never been in that position before, so this would bring me full circle."
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