One of four Q&As with the candidates for two, three-year terms on the Red Bank Borough Council in next week’s election. Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee, both Democrats, are the incumbents; Cindy Burnham and Sean Di Somma, Republicans, are the challengers. Their answers to redbankgreen‘s questions are unedited.
Name: Sharon Lee
Where did you grow up? Germany, Red Bank
How long have you been a resident of Red Bank?
Life long! With brief absences, being a military dependent (army), college and a beach hideaway 58 years. Red bank has been my address.
Did you graduate from college? No I did not
If so, which school, with what degree?
Katharine Gibbs secretarial
Devry tech programming
Assorted Telecom courses via bellcore and Telcordia 10yrs
Johnson and wales (merchandising)
BROOKDALE cc assorted business courses
Rutgers- university college
Bloustein Rutgers (njlm) misc municipal courses
What do you do for a living? Planner/ clerk employer, nj turnpike authority
Job tracking, coordinate purchasing and inventory, services hr department and print shop services for the authority and its clients.
Party affiliation: democratic
How important is party affiliation to you?
Important enough that I’ve never questioned it, I was born into and raised in a democratic family.
What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
The Democratic Party is receptive, to diverse people and inclusive of news ideas, that’s always been important to me.
In brief, what should Red Bank residents expect of a council member?
Access.! And response. They should expect me to be “representative” : of my town , values as well as an intermediary for them. Each of us is a product of our collective experiences. I believe the people who vote for me acknowledge my accumulated life experiences. Some might be shared experiences and some vastly different from my neighbors. this combination and my willingness to put forth and voice the opinions, concerns and desires of my community members; not just my personal values, makes me not just a better Councilperson, but a better person.
Should healthcare benefits continue to be available to elected officials through the borough’s insurance coverage?
The opposing parties in this election have differing views on how much the municipal portion of property tax bills, excluding school and county taxes, have risen during the terms of Sharon Lee and Kathy Horgan. How much HAVE they risen in those two periods, and how do you arrive at those figures?
Property taxes (municipal portion) have risen about 42% since 2000. According to the new jersey league of municipalities, “from September 2000 to September 2012, the costs of local government increased 44.3%.” The league also identifies underfunding by the state as another cause of tax increase at the municipal level. Governor Christies 2% levy which was instituted in 2010 increased our reliance upon property taxes. Locally we have had to adjust our rates to accommodate extreme weather events, assessments (which the impact of upon our taxes , should be explained by a professional) We’ve utilized funds from our water utility to offset these events as well as major decreases in state funding.
2003-2006 property taxes increased by 13%
2006-2007 the Boro underwent a reassessment
2013 7% projected increase
Do you think that property tax increases are out of control here?
Property taxes in red bank are reflective of the services, property values, presence of tax exempt properties 16%, and so on.
would I like them to be lower, or non existent? yes. But we all know that is not a possibility considering the services an urban (and aging) environment requires. As well as our current system of government funding.
What will be your approach to budgeting and taxes?
In taking on an elected office i made a statement that i wanted to be part of a group whose primary concern was moving the entire borough forward. Not just to project my position. i believe my approach has been consistent : working with our professionals, we
Come up with solutions which allow us to provide a suitable level of services and to maintain a quality standard of life in the borough of red bank.
What if any borough operations or services should be reduced or eliminated?
We have already reduced and compressed services and staff. so your question is really should we eliminate or privatize services. I have not been in favor of reduction, downsizing, combining nor privatizing. The value I see in red bank is that we have options and control over our services and facilities. If we privatize, we lose that control.
Red Bank has a large number of charities that don’t pay property taxes, accounting for ownership of an estimated16 percent of the borough’s aggregate valuation, far more than nearby towns. What if anything should be done to address this?
Red Bank has a large number of charities that don’t pay property taxes, admitting that some make a contribution I lieu of taxes to the borough. Non profits account for ownership of an estimated 16 percent of properties in Red Bank, far more than nearby towns. We have historically been the hub of the peninsula, this also adds to our value and uniqueness in the county and beyond. Red Bank residents as well as surrounding communities benefit and are enriched by all we offer.
Regarding the borough water utility: should it be sold? No
The water utility generates surpluses that have been used in the past to offset growth in the borough budget, thereby limiting tax increases. What do you think of this?
It’s a beneficial asset that adds revenue when needed. I see no reason to divest from a revenue generating activity in the borough, particularly with the state funding cuts.
What is your view of the borough’s permitting and licensing procedures for new businesses and existing businesses that wish to expand? Is the process business-friendly?
I’ve heard many many pieces of advice over the years. Our business owners and developers keep a steady dialogue going regarding streamlining. I believe we are making the system better daily.
Chain stores and chain hotels: does their presence in Red Bank diminish the character of our town?
Again red bank, had like many towns, been a Petri dish for small businesses. Small businesses created the very fabric of this town and its people. I would hope that we will always offer a culture that nurtures the independent small business.
Does Red Bank need a downtown parking garage to secure its economic future?
Yes, we also need a garage to capitalize on the wonderful Transportation hub that we are!
Would you vote for a garage that was not fully paid for by private money? Yes
How well do you think Red Bank competes with places like Asbury Park and Pier Village in Long Branch at attracting visitors?
Red bank has an organic nature, it feels good. Red Bank has roots, old and new: this creates an environment for relationships and partnerships to develop and grow.
How do you rate Red Bank’s commitment to conservation and environmental protection? Please be specific.
We have some amazing people working diligently on education in the schools, in the council and … interest is taking hold and the
How do you rate the conditions and maintenance of public facilities such as our parks? What if anything needs to be changed?
Maintenance of all our facilities is labor intensive. they all require staff, knowledge and planning , not always in that order. With budget cuts from the state and staffing cuts locally to accommodate those cuts. Working on facilities is often an as needed operation as opposed to as scheduled.
Anything else you’d like say? Just thank you for pulling this together.