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Five Questions With Verona Candidate Alex Roman

Hopeful is running for the Verona Township Council in the May 14 election.

Alex Roman has lived in Verona since 2005 and is concerned with increasing property taxes and aims to to bring down expenses without substantially affecting public-facing services such as emergency services, infrastructure maintenance and recreation, he says.

As the director of IT for Emmis Communications, an owner of media properties, Roman has 17 years of experience in the industry and does extensive budget reviews on an annual basis.

“If I am elected I plan to launch an in-depth review of our financial situation and budget,” he said.

What issues are important to you as a resident?
The most important issue to me is the property tax rate. It is unreasonably high and has increased substantially during a time when costs could have been held under control. Property taxes are ranked as one of the most important issues to New Jersey residents yet no real effort is ever made to solve the problem. I don't believe it has to be this way.

I think we can run an effective government on less money if we put the right leadership in place. This is a statewide issue but it will only be solved locally. Help is not coming from Trenton or from anywhere else. If we do not manage expenses at the town, school and county level, our taxes will keep going up.

What other organizations or bodies have you been on/been a part of?
I put most of my energy into pushing back on taxes and spending so I have not been able to spend much time serving other organizations. I have regularly attended council meetings for years and spend days going through municipal budgets, contracts, payrolls and other sources of data to find all the inefficiency and cost drivers that are the root of the problem.

Why do you want to be on the council?
I want to be on the council to help my neighbors and do something for the greater good. I feel that while the legacy council members have the best of intentions and care about the town, we have not seen the results we need in management of expenses. Simply slowing the rate of increase in our tax bills does not make up for the fact that the overall tab is just too high.

This year is critical as we are going into union contract negotiations with both of our bargaining units. If we do not address portions of the contracts that are unfavorable to the taxpayers we will not be able to control costs over the coming years. We need people on the council who understand budgets, contracts, payrolls, employee benefits and capital investment if we are to make sound fiscal decisions in the future.

What makes you qualified for this position?
My qualifications for this position stem from my experience in business. I supervise information technology, physical plant management, regulatory compliance, commercial leases and other management issues for a business where we operate 24 hours a day under all circumstances, just as a municipality does.

I am responsible for developing and maintaining operating and capital budgets and managing major projects.

Many times we have heard from council members that they are not experts in budgets. That is what has brought us to where we are now. I believe the council members need to deeply understand the budget to make the right decisions and provide active direction to the town management.

What issues do you plan to tackle if elected/What changes do you plan to
 make if elected?
If I am elected I plan to launch an in-depth review of our financial situation and budget. I do not believe the council members have been provided sufficient information on why  our costs are as high as they are.

The level of budget review presented is minimal compared to what I am required to go through on an annual basis. We barely skim the surface of what the expense lines pay for and entirely skip a discussion of whether the cost figures are reasonable or what we could potentially reduce.

My goal is to bring down expenses without substantially affecting public-facing services such as emergency services, infrastructure maintenance and recreation. Primarily, I would like to see our overtime expense reduced to a fraction of what it is now. I would also require competitive bidding of all professional service contracts and strictly manage those expenses.

However, I am a realist when it comes to the necessity of government services. My job involves keeping things working, responding to problems at any time of day or night and maintaining and fixing the things that wear out or need to be upgraded.

I believe in the ability and duty of the government to care for our infrastructure, to provide assistance in an emergency, and to run the recreational programs and services we want as a community. I think we need to strike a better balance of management of our costs while making smart choices and investments to serve the public.

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