Local candidates prepare for Township Council elections

In addition to being Election Day for the presidential race, Nov. 2 also marks the election for the Ewing Township Council. The current Democratic majority seeks to hold onto its position, while the Republicans, who held only one seat last year, seek to become the majority in the council for the first time in a decade.

The Republicans, led by Councilman and former mayor Jack Ball, hold foremost in their campaign the idea of “fiscal responsibility.”

A variety of budget problems, from a lack of income due to the un-taxable, state-owned properties in the town ship to the extremely late budget and remaining deficit have given them their opportunity to recapture the council.

Republicans Tom Toth and Brian McKeon are also running for seats. This is McKeon’s first race for a seat on the town council, while Toth ran as an Independent last year, but has joined the Republicans for this election.

“I’ve always been a registered Republican, but they already had candidates [last election],” he said.

The three candidates have been pushing a major issue: the budget for this fiscal year, which was supposed to be finished in July, but, instead, has been pushed back until after the election.

“There needs to be a return to fiscal responsibility, as shown by overspending,” Toth said.

The Republicans blame this on a deficit created by the Democratic majority, and believe that the Democrats are pushing back the release date of the budget in order to hide their mistakes until after the election.

Another reason for the lack of income for the Ewing government is that the state owns 30 percent of the township’s land, including the College.

State land cannot be taxed, so the state compensates by giving Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, or P.I.L.O.T. payments.

The state, however, has not increased the amount of P.I.L.O.T. funds in the past decade, and the township is losing large amounts of possible tax dollars to state owned land.

The Republicans seek to speak with the state and try to get compensation for the lost revenue.

The Republicans also accuse the Democrats of trying to give themselves and the mayor a pay raise last year, which was defeated with a petition from the voters in Ewing.

They believe these fiduciary issues will resonate with the electorate and win the Republicans a majority on the council.

The Democrats, Councilmen Bert Steinmann and Les Summiel along with former Councilman Joe Murphy, are concentrating their campaign on the Democratic majority’s positive effect on the township’s businesses.

They seek to keep taxes low in Ewing by helping create new businesses and as many jobs as possible in order to generate a wider base of taxpayers.

The Democratic council has created 700 jobs in the past three years.

The Democrats have taken great pride in their support to bring the Home Depot located on Olden Avenue to the township, a business that generates $220,000 in taxes.

In addition, the Democrats can boast the opening of a new hotel on their watch, the Marriott Courtyard on Scotch Road.

The Democrats also relieved taxes by obtaining $2.5 million in federal grants and $1.3 million in state aid to reduce budget costs while still providing adequate services for the town.

The Democrats also purchased equipment for each of the volunteer fire companies in Ewing, and also began a five year program to improve the town’s parks and recreation.

The Democratic Party’s campaign focuses much more on reminding the public of its past successes than on putting down its opponents.

Since the Republicans haven’t had a majority in council in almost ten years, the burden of proof lies with them.

Despite the close to 3-1 majority of Democrats to Republicans among Ewing’s registered voters, the Republicans feel that this is the year they can take back the council, as they build on support found last year as well as on the issue of the broken budget.

The Democrats, however, still have the comfort of a longstanding dominance and the economic successes that they have created in the past.