By Philip Sean Curran
Township Committeeman Jay Taylor will serve as the mayor of Cranbury in 2019 with an agenda that he said includes providing a municipal tax cut and taking the initial procedural steps toward eventually dredging Brainerd Lake.
In an interview on Dec. 14, Taylor said his chief goal is to make sure the five-member Township Committee works as a “well-oiled machine” in 2019. Set to enter his 10th year serving in municipal government, he said he feels excited for the new year to arrive.
Taylor said Cranbury is on solid financial footing with an anticipated $2 million extra in the town’s surplus fund coming from tax ratables of new warehouses.
“I fully expect the committee will work together and come up with an appropriate tax decrease,” he said.
As for the lake, Taylor said it has not been dredged since the 1980s. Since then, soil and other material have contributed to the lake becoming more shallow, he said.
He raised the prospect of dredging not starting until 2021, but believes it is critical to begin moving in that direction by putting a plan in place. Preliminary work would include testing the soil at the bottom of the lake to see if there are contaminants, and eventually getting necessary state permits for dredging. There is no price tag for the job at this point, he said.
Taylor has turned to fellow committeemen Matthew A. Scott and Michael J. Ferrante to sit on a traffic safety committee and work with other town officials on recommendations for improvements the full governing body can consider.
Taylor, a Democrat, will begin his fourth three-year-term on the governing body in January. Now 44, the Cranbury native was re-elected in November in a three-way contest that saw Ferrante, also a Democrat, also win a seat.
Democrats will maintain their 4-1 majority on the Township Committee in 2019.
Politics runs in the Taylor family. His father, Jim, served on the Township Committee in the 1990s, and his great-grandfather, George Morrison, was a state Assemblyman in the 1920s and later was a Superior Court judge.
Based on the form of government in Cranbury, the mayor is not directly elected by voters, but is chosen from among the five members of the Township Committee. The choice will become official at the annual reorganization meeting, scheduled for Jan.3.
Taylor has served as mayor once before, in 2015.
“Every mayor has a different view of how they approach the role,” he said. “Some want to be kind of the chairman of the board and everything runs through them and they micromanage the town.”
Taylor said he sees the job as a delegator who gives space to the other members of the governing body to act on issues they care about.
“None of us got elected with 100 percent of the votes,” he said. “The town saw strength in myself, they saw strength in Matt and Mike, so it makes sense that they be empowered to do key things within the town.”
“The residents of Cranbury have been very patient with the Township Committee as we have navigated what were very difficult financial times during the Great Recession as we came out of it,” said Committeeman Daniel P. Mulligan III, the lone Republican on the governing body.
“It’s really now time to make sure we pay back and thank the residents for those efforts. We need to look at things as, financially, are there opportunities for tax cuts on property taxes, especially with the pressures coming out of Washington with federal tax changes, as well as the burdensome tax levies coming from the state,” Mulligan said.
Taylor also touched on some issues that are beyond the control of the committee, but ones he sees as important for the community. One such issue is the potential legalization of adult use (recreational) marijuana by the state.
He touched on the need to “go down to the State House and advocate on our behalf and make sure we don’t get penalized.” This year, Taylor and other officials banned the sale of adult use marijuana in Cranbury, a step in anticipation of the law changing.
In another area, Taylor said he intends to be a voice against any push by state officials to force small towns and school districts to merge. He said he believes the possibility of mandatory consolidation will “gain some momentum” in 2019.
“We are going to have to be down there and I’m going to have be down there as mayor and really strongly advocating on our behalf so we don’t get steamrolled by the guys in Trenton,” he said.