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Get to Know the Candidates for Mayor Series: Week 2

HARRY CLEWELL for MAYOR

What do you think the major issues facing New Providence are at this time? How do you propose making improvements to said issues? If the issue(s) identified has a substantial price tag, how do you propose paying for it?

The League of Women Voters hosted a fantastic debate on October 6, 2022. During that event, both candidates discussed over-development as the most important issue in the Borough. I encourage every resident to view the debate when the video is posted in the coming days. Because that issue was already debated, I’ll focus on another pressing issue in New Providence: Taxes, Taxes, Taxes. New Providence has the third highest average tax bill in Union County, behind only Summit and Westfield. Over the past decade, our municipal taxes have increased at a rate outpacing the consumer price index, meaning that these increases are not only caused by inflation. Most importantly, in 2021, property taxes accounted for 64% of our municipal revenue, compared to 54% in Summit and 42% for Berkeley Heights. As you can see, the Borough has become increasingly reliant on property taxes to provide basic services. The good news is that we can explore alternative sources of revenue, while also reexamining our current budget for inefficiencies to ease the burden on our taxpayers. First, we need to ensure that we are working with our county, state, and federal governments to receive the money and services we deserve. Here is what I would do: A. Hire a grant writer. Several years ago, Fanwood hired a grant writing expert for $2,500 a month, resulting in nearly $2,000,0000 in grant money, which covered 20% of their budget. A grant writer would ensure that we are applying for every grant we can, and that we get more of what we need. B. Work with our Congressman to receive money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as well as the Inflation Reduction Act. Last year, Berkeley Heights worked with Congressman Malinowski to secure $500,000 in federal dollars to help prevent future flooding, Summit received $1,000,000 to address local water infrastructure needs. New Providence received $0. We cannot let this happen again as more opportunities for federal funds arise. Second, we need to maximize revenue potential of our office and business areas. Right now, we have numerous vacant properties and underutilized spaces. We can start by improving our master plan to chart a course for smart growth and strategic development to attract new businesses and service industries to Downtown and to our commercial spaces on Mountain and Central Avenue. Third, we must reexamine the current budget: It has been years since the budget was thoroughly analyzed from the bottom up. It is important that the Mayor personally review every line item in the budget, ask questions and challenge assumptions. Then, we must rebuild the budget starting from zero and reexamine whether our tax dollars are being spent efficiently. Then, we can improve operating efficiencies by leveraging technology to streamline processes, reduce waste and ultimately reduce costs. I’ll collaborate with the Board of Education and neighboring towns to identify opportunities for shared purchasing, services, and staffing


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Harry Clewell is a member of the United States Army Reserves. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the United States Army Reserves, Department of the Army or the Department of Defense. All factual military information and photographs are provided in conjunction with other non-military biographical data.
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