Each candidate answered the same questions, which were emailed. Candidates were asked to answer the questions individually, not as one ticket. Candidate responses were not edited.
Candidate Profile: Joe Ponisi, Incumbent Republican
1. What are your motivations for running for elected office?
I would like for Holmdel to remain one of the premier communities in the State to live and to raise a family. This can be achieved through a balance of quality schools, lower than average property taxes, abundant open space and ample recreational opportunities for the children.
As a financial professional my entire career, I understand how important it is to control property taxes and to watch how these tax dollars are spent. As a community we are way too reliant on property taxes from homeowners and we need to bring in quality commercial ratables to diversify this revenue stream.
2. What are your new ideas for Holmdel Township?
One of my new ideas is to have more opportunities to bring families together in a fun atmosphere. We recently hosted our first ever Harvest Festival at Bayonet Farms and it was a huge success. We also need to make some simple improvements to Cross Farms by adding some basketball and tennis courts and also a play area with swings for the younger children.
Also, I am currently looking into installing a few high quality “Welcome to Holmdel” signs along our main corridors. Currently we have a couple of generic metal signs along Routes 34 & 35, but I want to show Holmdel off in a positive light by having some first class signs. There will be sponsors for these signs so there would be no cost to the Holmdel taxpayer.
3. What are some of the challenges Holmdel is currently facing, and what are your ideas to get past the obstacles?
By far, the biggest challenge facing Holmdel is the redevelopment of the Lucent site. I am fully committed to making sure that property gets developed in such a way that the bucolic beauty of that land remains intact, while we bring in much needed commercial ratables that can ease the tax burden on the homeowners.
Lucent generated about $5.5 million of property taxes at its peak and today the site generates approximately $500,000. We as homeowners made up that difference and I stand committed to rebate back to the homeowners much of this revenue when it starts to come into the Township’s coffers.
4. Last year, the Holmdel Township property tax increase was above the state average. What are your ideas to limit spending and increase revenue in the township, effectively working to lower property taxes?
This is a very complex question that I will try to answer in a succinct matter. A few years ago, the State enacted a 2% cap on the annual increases of property taxes for not just municipalities but all levels of government, including our schools. I fully believe that this is a wonderful way to control the increases of property taxes and I applaud the Governor for enacting this legislation.
However, when you look closely at our budget you will see that we did in fact stay under the 2% property tax cap, but we took an aggressive approach to retiring some high interest rate debt that we had on our books. The most efficient way for us to accomplish this was through the “pre-payment” of property taxes, but (and most importantly) it is taxes that we would have had to pay in the future anyway. This is the level of financial expertise that I and my running mate Eric Hinds bring to the table. As a result of this financial decision, we will be saving the Holmdel taxpayer thousands of dollars in the future.
Also, as stated above, when revenue from the Lucent redevelopment begins to get generated, we stand committed to reducing our property taxes.
5. What experience in your private life translates positively to a life of public service?
I have spent my entire professional career analyzing the financial operations and economic conditions of municipalities throughout the United States. It is a very unique set of skills that were developed under the employment of GE Capital.
For better or worse, I make most of my decisions in life by analyzing the financial ramifications of that decision and in the 1 ½ years of being on the Township Committee I bring that diligence to the table when it comes to spending your hard-earned tax dollar.
6. (Reader question) The Lucent redevelopment plan prominently mentions " higher education" as one of the permitted uses. Aren't most educational institutions tax-exempt, and how would it benefit the town in that case?
This is a great question and one that I have gotten several times in the past few weeks while campaigning. As a Committee we thought about that long and hard and were not just concerned about public higher education going into the building but other tax exempt entities like a museum or the American Cancer Society, as just two additional examples.
I am pleased to note that our redevelopment plan has a covenant (which is a requirement) that does not restrict the occupancy of a “tax-exempt entity” but requires that Holmdel still receive tax revenue from that entity even if it is tax-exempt. This is truly a win-win for the Town and for Somerset development.
The added benefit of having a college occupy some floor space in the building is the higher paying jobs that are associated with it, so that the community as a whole benefits as well.
7. Expanding on Lucent, while the board hasn't approved the housing development phase of the property, what are your visions for that portion of the project? What is your vision for that property, and how can the township work with the developer to make the situation a win for Holmdel residents?
As a Committee we have seen exactly what the community has seen regarding the housing component and that is a conceptual plan from Toll Brothers. While Toll Brothers was selected by Somerset, they have yet to close on their portion of the redevelopment project. Although we were not included in the selection process, I am personally ecstatic that Toll Brothers was selected by Somerset to construct the housing component, simply because of the quality product they build. I encourage everyone to visit their website to see the design of their homes and the properties they develop….here is the link to their website http://www.tollbrothers.com/.
The Redevelopment Plan allows for a maximum of 40 single family homes and up to 185, age restricted (55 and older) homes. There are two important facts that I need to point out regarding the housing: 1) The 40 homes will generate approximately 100 school age children, which can easily be handled by our schools as enrollment at our four buildings have actually decreased by several hundred over the past 6 years. In fact due to the enrollment decline, there was sufficient capacity at Village School to allow the administrative office to move out of Town Hall and into Village School. 2) As for the age restricted housing, it is crucial for the public to know that these homes will be deed restricted and under no circumstances can these homes be “flipped” to regular housing. I would like to congratulate our Professionals and fellow members of the Committee for putting this important condition on the senior houses.
Candidate articles will be published throughout the week of Oct. 21, and will be linked below as they become available. You can also find them in our elections category.