Lower Taxes & Reduce Costs/Expenses
Warren Township adopted a significant tax levy increase of 3.8% in the 2019 budget that was passed unanimously on May 9th (click for link or see News tab). The Township Committee said the significant increase was due to rising costs and because of losing ratables (businesses like Citibank are leaving Warren). The Township Committee also said they would be using $1.3M in surplus funds on improvement and road maintenance projects in the 2019 Budget.
I will manage our town's spending prudently and responsibly by working to reduce expenses and cut costs in order to lower property taxes. I will continuously examine costs to identify inefficiencies and potential savings. For example, our town’s old municipal building needs to either be re-purposed or demolished instead of costing us valuable tax dollars by sitting vacant. I have continued to ask the Township Committee members to address this issue at Township Committee meetings over the last several years. I would also redouble efforts to attract businesses to town so we can minimize the tax burden on our homeowners. We need to ensure commercial ratables are not vacant over long periods of time to offset the tax burden and minimize tax increases.
I will work to reevaluate the use of the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) programs in our town given that it undercuts tax receipts funding our schools, which leads to our residents potentially paying higher taxes to support our schools. Prudent and responsible use of the PILOT program is necessary to ensure our schools have the appropriate funding without unduly burdening our taxpayers.
FAIR & SENSIBLE AFFORDABLE HOUSING/
PRESERVE WARREN'S RURAL NATURE
I have seen plenty of development here in Warren Township since moving here with my wife, Wendy, in 2001. The amount of development is changing the rural nature of Warren. Our township has been dealing with requirements to meet affordable housing mandates for many years and includes the most recent round since 2015. Last October, our Township Committee approved a settlement agreement on affordable housing that calls for the construction of 1,048 new homes by 2025, of which 362 would be set aside for low and moderate income families (click for link or see News tab). Adding over 1000 units of housing will not only transform the rural nature of our town, but will also likely have significant impacts on traffic (and our roads), our schools, water drainage, property values/taxes, etc.. While I'm not against affordable housing, the process of selecting the properties for affordable housing needs to be transparent, fair and sensible. Residents should not be shocked by secret decisions that are made having had no input on them.
While I have attended many Township Committee meetings, Board of Adjustment meetings, and Planning Board meetings over the years as a resident concerned about how developments were changing the nature of our town, those concerns have only heightened during the past three years. I have attended Township Committee meetings regularly since 2017, including the Township Committee’s Public Hearing on Affordable Housing Settlement held on October 1, 2018. The settlement agreement was adopted by the Township Committee only nine days later. I spoke at the Fairness Hearing held on December 4, 2018, and continue to monitor the progress of zoning changes that the township has implemented during the first half of this year. I also attended the Compliance Hearing that took place on August 28, 2019. I am aware of the proceedings on this issue and continue to speak to our legislators and advocates of affordable housing reform. I will continue to attend Township Committee meetings.
If elected, I will work to bring transparency and advocate better solutions for our residents both now, and in the future, as work on the next round of affordable housing is set to begin soon. We need better growth and development planning that is transparent and incorporates residents' suggestions and concerns on affordable housing. The Master Plan needs to continue to evolve in a fair and prudent manner so as to maintain the rural character of Warren while ensuring residents’ concerns regarding traffic, development, recreation, open space and services are heeded and incorporated. We need a coherent strategy that is fair and balanced to all residents over the long term.
Improve Public Safety
Warren Township slipped to #29 on the latest list of NJ’s 50 Safest Cities of 2019 according to the report by Safewise released on April 4, 2019 (click for link or see News Tab). Warren Township had held the #3 position on the same Safewise list in 2018. According to the Safewise’s report, the violent crime rate per 1000 increased from .06 to .18 from 2018 to 2019 while the property crime rate dropped over that same period.
I will work to ensure the best resources, equipment and technology are provided to our Public Safety Department. I believe Police Chief William Keane and the Warren detectives and officers all do an incredible job to keep our town safe and I am devoted to ensuring our police department receives the tools and resources it needs to keep Warren safe and return our town to be at the top of NJ’s Safest Cities as reported by Safewise.
Accelerate Quality Road Repairs and Snow Removal by Utilizing Technology
Roadways in town constantly need to be repaired and snow removal should be improved, especially on our towns' secondary roads. I will work with Warren's Department of Public Works and contractors to ensure timely and effective repairs are made to our roadways, as well as, accelerate snow removal on our secondary roads. I will make sure that our roadway repaving schedule is publicly disclosed and that proper resources and technical innovations, such as utilizing GPS tracking, are explored to improve snow removal.
Support & Create Programs for Local Businesses
I am dedicated to helping our local businesses thrive and build symbiotic relationship with our residents. One such idea is to support township’s restaurant businesses by introducing programs like “Restaurant Week” that can showcase the diversity of restaurants and bring in additional business from neighboring towns. "Restaurant Week" also would improve our residents’ awareness of the diverse types of fine cuisine available. We need to keep businesses growing in our township.
Improve Postal Delivery Service
Our mail service in Warren needs to be improved. Whether its mail being delivered to the wrong mailbox, packages being left out in the rain, or incorrect tracking information, our post office can do a better job. I will work with our Congressman's office to help address our residents' concerns and complaints. I also want to encourage each resident to utilize a free service offered by the Postal Service called Informed Delivery. This service will provide an email each morning with a scan of the mail that you should receive later that day. Take this step to better know more about mail that should be delivered by signing up at https://informeddelivery.usps.com.
Reduce Electrical Glitches
The power in our town goes out or glitches too often. Reliable electric power is more important with the increased usage of electronics in our homes. I will use my problem solving skills to work with the utility company and Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and our utility companies to reduce Warren's Momentary Average Interrupt Frequency Index (MAIFI). I will work with the BPU and our utility companies to make sure everything is being done to guarantee reliable service. This would include advocating that our utility companies have invested properly in the equipment and upgrades of the circuit infrastructure and adequately prune trees so that momentary disruptions are minimized.
Bolster Renewable Energy Usage and Environmental Effort
Our township can do a better job of utilizing renewable energy and setting an example for and providing education and resources to support its adoption. I'm a supporter of using renewable energy and know we can do a better job of making Warren a greener town. For example, with the construction of the new Municipal Building a few years ago, it would have been ideal to have utilized technologies like solar (especially on the south facing rooftop) or even geothermal, which both have decent returns on investment and positively affect our carbon footprint. My wife and I have added a solar panel system to our home to reduce our carbon footprint! I support the efforts of Warren's Green Team and will work to ensure our town is doing its part to ensure the safety of the environment for our residents.
Enhance Emergency Notification Systems
I lived here during Superstorm Sandy and know first hand the shortcomings of our town's notification system. I am committed to enhancing our emergency notification/reverse 911 capabilities so that our residents can stay informed during any crisis. After seeing the impacts of events like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria, it's critical for our town to be well prepared and have a robust emergency notification system. l will work with our town to invest in updated technology and enhanced services to supplement programs like Nixle.
I ask for your vote on Tuesday, November 5
Rick de Pinho
For Warren Township Committee
Fresh Ideas - Independent - Transparent
F.I.T. to Serve Warren Township