Monroe mayoral candidate Dipierro focused on taxes, ways to fund schools

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2, MonroeNow, Sep 27, 2019

MONROE – Charles Dipierro believes the township is heading in the wrong direction and his “experience and knowledge” can change the path.

Dipierro is the Republican candidate for mayor in Monroe for the November general election facing incumbent Gerald Tamburro.

He blames what he sees as the township’s problems on the current administration and the past three decades of Democratic control.

“The two main issues are our taxes and our schools,” Dipierro said in a recent interview about why he is running for mayor. “I see [the township] is going in the wrong direction with the current administration for the past 32 years.”

‘I can reduce taxes’

Though Monroe already has one of the lowest tax rates in Middlesex County when it comes to the municipal government, Dipierro said he can reduce that even more.

In the 2019 municipal budget, taxes were flat, which Dipierro said was because it’s an election year for the mayor, though he did not have any evidence to support that claim.

“Our current administration is saying that the municipal tax is flat,” he said. “I believe that I can as mayor I can reduce the taxes, not keep taxes flat for an election year.”

Part of his plan to cut taxes is to hire in-house professionals, such as an engineer and attorney, instead of using firms for these positions.

“Having in-house professional services … we believe can save a lot of money for our taxpayers and also provide [direct] services for our residents [coming into] the municipal building,” he said.

For example, a $55,000 contract for Center State Engineering to provide “engineering services in connection with Federal Road Alignment Study,” he believes is part of the problem.

Based on Dipierro’s calculations and reports he’s received as a council member, he said the governing body approved more than $600,000 in projects for the engineer and attorney each in 2018 and he expects at least that amount this year.

“I’m not going to say that’s the golden goose that’s going to save Monroe,” he said. “But this is the direction that we are trying to change.”

‘Consumer tax’ fee plan for education

There has been a push in Monroe recently to impose impact fees on developers forcing them to contribute funding to build new schools and other needed community-wide improvements.

Impact fees, however, are still illegal in New Jersey, but the mayoral candidate wants to create a “consumer tax,” an extra fee on businesses earmarked for the school district.

“If you go down Route 33 … I would make that a business district and I would add a consumer tax that would be added to that business district,” he said. “We would make a consumer tax that would be paid to the town and then we would give that to the schools.”

While New Jersey allows special taxes, the use of those funds has specific requirements.

Business or special improvement districts are one example. After local approval, businesses within the zone pay an additional tax to support retail and commercial initiatives within the zone, which are regulated by state law.

A “consumer tax” would require approval from the state Legislature, similar to the payroll tax plans that recently allowed certain jurisdictions to collect extra fees to support education.

“These developers are the ones that are putting up these projects and they’re not giving anything back to the town,” he said.

The Monroe governing body recently adopted a resolution calling on the state Legislature to allow impact fees on developers.

“It’s time for a change,” Dipierro said. “I know what’s broke and in order to fix it, I got to be the mayor and get the people’s support. They just keep saying everything’s fine, everything’s fine, but it’s not fine.”

Editor’s note: Monroe Victory 2019, which includes the mayor and two incumbent Democratic council members, did not provide any dates for a similar one-on-one interview after multiple requests between Sept. 16 and Sept. 26.