2016 Mayors Message
N.J. Monthly Magazine recently published an article regarding the “2015 Top 100 Towns List”. The article ranked Stafford Township 136th out of the 510 Municipalities studied in the State (towns with a population of less than 1,500 were dropped from the study). Stafford also ranked as the 6th best place to live in Ocean County. In addition, Stafford Township property tax change from 2012 to 2014 was a reduction of 3.7% (this is the greatest reduction in residential property taxes in Ocean County). Of the 5 Communities in Ocean County ranked above Stafford only one Town had a lower 2014 average property tax (Pine Beach annual residential taxes were $18.00 lower than Stafford). This study does not take into account the additional reduction in our 2015 Municipal tax rate.
This is especially good news as we continue to recover from Superstorm Sandy. Our community suffered a major superstorm that impacted 4,200 homes in Stafford and resulted in a loss of $200 million in our ratable base; this decrease of our tax base represented a $740 thousand loss in Municipal taxes. We are proud that we have been able to continue to keep taxes affordable, while maintaining the quality of life our residents deserve.
Most of us who live in Stafford recognize that we live in a very special Community. However, sometimes it is good to hear how well we are doing from an unbiased source. Researchers at Lefein Associates (an independent research firm based in Ringwood), considered five categories to represent the quality of life in New Jersey’s 565 Municipalities; home values, property taxes, crime rate, school performance and a lifestyle factor. This research team utilized indicators to rank each town. These indicators include the average residential tax bill (2014); change in average property tax bill from 2012 to 2014; effective property tax rate for 2014; median home-sales price (2014); change in median home-sales price (2012 -2014); total crime rate (2013) combined with a score for violent crime rate (2013); student proficiency on state-mandated standardized tests, and other lifestyle factors. The final rankings were based on 13 indicators across the 5 categories.
Over the past three years Stafford Township has endured a number of very significant challenges from dealing with Super Storm Sandy and the economic stress it has placed on the township, to the never ending battles with FEMA. Although our recovery is ahead of most towns we still have a lot of work to complete. Through it all our resourcefulness and resolve has been tested, but as a community we continue to stand tall.
Stafford Township has so much to offer from our numerous parks and recreation opportunities, to shopping, and a quality school system. Our geographic location in close proximity to Long Beach Island, Barnegat Bay, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and New York assure our residents quick access to a variety of metropolitan areas while living in a quiet suburban atmosphere.
During my tenure as Mayor since April of 2011, I have remained committed to changing the way our government does business. It is time for government to look at all options available, and to focus on new and innovative ways to address issues, rather than simply throwing money at the problem. It is time for government to be responsible to the people, think outside the box, and be ever mindful that we are keepers of a sacred trust, the welfare of our citizens.
Without question the emotional and physical damage as a result of Sandy has been devastating. As we move into 2016, we will continue to work to rebuild our homes, infrastructure, two new Community Centers and restore our community better than it was before the Storm. We have all suffered this loss together and together we will lift each other out of the despair and into a brighter future.
It has been said that adversity does not mold character it reveals it and these past few years has revealed the true character of Stafford Township, and it is one of generosity, caring and pride.
Stable taxes, outstanding recreational opportunities, a business friendly community, excellent services, a healthy environment all equal a superior quality of life and a community of pride.
We remain proud of our first responders; our Police, fire and EMS continue to prove their excellence, dedication and commitment toward keeping Stafford safe while serving our community with compassion. They are true heroes who put their lives on the line every day.
Stafford is also a community of volunteers who are always willing to give up their time to serve our Township. I believe these volunteers are the heartbeat of our community, they are there willing to help every day and whenever people are in need.
Many of the changes I continue to advocate and that have played a part in controlling taxes, and spending, include being more aggressive with shared services and shared equipment with our surrounding communities. There are unique requirements, licenses and capabilities within our workforce and the equipment we own, that by sharing these resources with other communities and their sharing with us we will continue to generate a new source of revenue as well as cost avoidances for our community other than taxation, and this has resulted in an overall reduction in our cost of operation. Teamwork and sharing resources saves money for everyone involved. Being able to accomplish this while improving the quality of life of all our residents is the goal.
I am optimistic about the future of Stafford Township, and excited to be able to move forward with new approaches to existing problems. I am also thrilled by the enthusiastic responses I have been receiving from our citizens, the County, the State, and Mayors from our surrounding towns. Many of these challenges do not recognize boundaries on a map, we are all in this together, and only by working together can we find solutions for today and into the future.
It is that pride, and our appreciation of the richness of our history that enables us to face an exciting future full of opportunities and challenges. I look forward to working with you the people of Stafford Township so that together we can meet these challenges and overcome all obstacles to an even brighter future.