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Letter to the Editor: Putting Cranbury First

To the Editor:

I want to wish everyone a belated Happy and Healthy New Year.

It is my honor and privilege to serve as Cranbury’s Mayor in 2019, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Township Committee, town staff and volunteers as we embark on an exciting 2019. 2019 is the year of putting Cranbury first.

Like my dad I grew up in Cranbury, I have been married for 16 years to my wife Kristen. We have twin boys Jake and James, who are both five years old and in Cranbuddies, while our daughter Gracie, who is nine, is in 4th grade.

I was elected to the Township Committee in 2009. I served as mayor in 2015, and as deputy mayor in 2014 and 2018. I was sworn in as Mayor of Cranbury in January, again this year.

As most residents are aware, Cranbury is unique in that our mayor is not an elected position, but one appointed by the committee members. All of us on the Township Committee are elected because of the faith and trust placed in us by the residents. None of us earned 100 percent of the vote, which means we are accountable to all residents and there are no individual or political mandates to try and push through other than to protect our town and community.

From an individual standpoint, I am putting Cranbury first by donating the mayor’s salary to our civic organizations in town each month. From a committee standpoint, we are focusing on three pillars to achieve the goal of “Cranbury First” – Financial, Communication and Safety.

Financially, we need to understand not all residents are wealthy and many are on fixed incomes. We must review our budget with all residents in mind.

Our initial budget meeting will occur on Feb. 2nd at 9 a.m. in town hall.  Our assessed value entering 2019 increased to $1.8 billion due to the warehouse development coming on line. The increased assessed value results in both from an increase to the revenue from one cent on the tax rate and our surplus.

In 2019, one cent will generate revenue of 176K compared to 160K in 2018. This increase means that a lower tax rate in 2019 can deliver the same income as in 2018.

The added assessment from the warehouse increased our surplus to approximately $8 million (unaudited figure).  The surplus enables us to maintain a AAA bond rating, offset our operating budget, and provide a safety net.  However, a high surplus is not always advantageous.

A proper surplus is a balancing act as the surplus cannot be below 20 percent of our operating budget without impacting our AAA rating, nor can it be too high without appearing that we do not properly manage our financials and tax rate.

Based on both the increased value and surplus, our municipal budget discussion will center on delivering a tax decrease to our residents.  Our budget will also consider how we invest in resident communications and safety.

In early January, I established a subcommittee with Committeemen Michael J. Ferrante and Glenn R. Johnson to review our communication processes and how we utilize social media. They have worked hard on reviewing what we do today, and their efforts are encouraging. Based on their initial review, I am confident that we can make large gains building off the work Deputy Mayor Daniel P. Mulligan III did when he established our social media platforms a few years back.

Communications though are not limited to just the township avenues. I opened discussion with the Cranbury Press Windsor-Hights Herald and am thankful to them for sharing in my vision of improving resident communication. The Press and I are have met this past week, and my initial feeling is we will see a return of the old Cranbury Press and the value our residents placed in the paper.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly is our focus on resident safety.  I am pleased to report that our two new officers are on the road completing their training and our initiative to bring back the “Cranbury Crawl” is coming to fruition. Around early April, you will see our Traffic Bureau back on the road with highly visible enforcement. I want to stress though that the officers alone cannot enact change and they must be supported by residents and the committee.

The Committee is committed to supporting our officers with necessary tools and resources to do their job. Therefore, we will consider investments to improve traffic safety such as additional electronic speed signs and crosswalk improvements.

Our residents need to support the efforts by going the speed limit and stopping for pedestrians in cross walks.  If we all go the speed limit and stop for pedestrians, then with over 3,000 residents we can make a positive change.

The Traffic Safety Subcommittee consists of Committeemen Ferrante and Scott, as well, and the plan is that they will have interactive communication sessions with residents to solicit feedback and answer questions during the year.

We as a Township Committee have high expectations for 2019 and look forward to putting Cranbury First. As always, our staff and Township Committee stand ready to answer your questions and address your concerns. I can be reached at jtaylor@cranbury-nj.com.

James Taylor
Township of Cranbury

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