When Joseph Ponisi accepted an invitation to apply for an opening on the five-member Township Committee to fill a vacancy two months ago, he was stepping up to stand with a governing body grappling with a crushing fiscal crisis. The budget gap was estimated at the time to be as large as $2.5 million, public land might have to be sold, taxes were going to go up -- and taxpayers were outraged.
Since then, a contract buyer has stepped forward to develop the 475-acre Lucent property, the newly hired Township Administrator Andy Katz has identified a plan to increase revenues that has significantly reduced the budget gap, and several private citizens have stepped forward to offer their expertise on the financial advisory committee, swim center and other boards.
"In working with Andy Katz and the talented staff, in just two short months we have turned the operations of the township around and have balanced out our operations," said Ponisi on Tuesday. He said the public will learn more details at Thursday's Township Committee meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
Ponisi, whose career is focused on analyzing the fiscal health of municipalities, was a volunteer on the citizens fiscal advisory committee, and a frequent observer at Town Hall meetings before he was appointed to the dais by the Republican Committee in order to fill Republican Serena DiMaso's term after she left for the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
He says he will run in November to run for the governing body because he believes his expertise in municipal government finance has been helpful to Holmdel.
Ponisi will run against Democrat Mark Levinson for DiMaso's one-year unexpired term. Levinson, in his career with homebuilding and land development, has honed skills in cost analysis, project management, and negotiation. He was appointed to the Zoning Board in February by the mayor to fill Joyce Ploussas' unexpired term as an Alternate.
His Republican Party running mate, Tom Critelli, has a background in real estate. Critelli will be running for a three year term against Democrat Larry Luttrell, an attorney. The term is available because the governing body's only Democrat, Larry Fink, is not seeking another term after a 12-year run.
Ponisi describes himself as a fiscal conservative who sees value in cultivating a "business friendly" atmosphere in Holmdel as the development unfolds at the Alcatel-Lucent site. He is also optimistic that he has made a connection in town that will result in the sale of one of the township's available liquor licenses.
"As a fiscal conservative, I will do everything in my power to contain the increases in property taxes and will continue to look at alternate solutions to increasing our revenue base and reducing our expenditures," he said.
"We also need to strike a fiscally balanced approach to preserve our existing open space, while developing opportunities for active recreation throughout town," he said.