Taxes Increase, Mail-In Voting Questioned

Photo by Micromedia Publications

  LAKEHURST – The average homeowner will be paying about $40 more this year on the municipal portion of their tax bill.

  Officials held a public hearing on their municipal budget during a recent Borough Council meeting where the increase was noted.

  The budget presentation was made by Chief Financial Officer William Antonides who said, “the adopted budget has a tax rate of $1.80.5 which was an increase from last year. The increase from last year is .025 cents giving an average increase of $40 a year. The average assessment for a home in Lakehurst is $159,348.”

  One reason for the increase was an emergency roof repair project that was $25,000.

  He also noted some good news in that the court system would see a savings of $15,000 this year and that would increase to $17,000 in the years ahead.

  Antonides explained the savings the borough would receive through the court system was due to Lakehurst’s shared service agreement for court services due to not paying pensions, health benefits, and social security for a court administrator.

  The wording of a resolution was questioned during the meeting. The resolution on the night’s agenda concerned the “right of in-person machine voting for the Nov. 3 election” which Councilwoman Patricia Hodges said was “worded ambiguously.”

  Council President Steven Oglesby also opposed the resolution for the same reasons.

  The primarily main line system slated for this fall’s general election was outlined by Gov. Phil Murphy in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic which calls for primarily mail-in voting with some in-person polling centers and drop off points for ballots.

  “The mail-in option has always been there, that is true, but this is a global pandemic. This is obviously serious and the mail-in voting is something that has to be utilized for more people than ever. Instead of expressing that numerous voters have expressed concerns of voter fraud, well where did that information come from? There are concerns but I feel this is casting suspicion on the whole process,” Hodges said.

  “I do have some reservations about this resolution and I will be voting no on it,” she added.

  Mayor Harry Robbins said “it is a matter of choice if someone wants to vote they can do it through a write-in as well.”

  Hodges said that she understood that even with in-person voting it will be done differently than normally done.

  “By title the resolution sounds wonderful. I strongly believe in the right to vote but the resolution itself, I don’t like the way it is worded. It sounds like we are suggesting it is one or the other and I prefer a choice,” Oglesby said.

  It was also noted by Borough Clerk Maryanne Capasso that the wording of the resolution was taken from a similar resolution provided by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders that were opposing the primarily mail-in only option. “That is where I got the wording from,” she said. The resolution was passed by a majority vote of the council.

  Councilman Brian DiMeo also called for discussion on the subject of keeping future council meetings as live events as there was no need to resume virtual sessions again.

  Also noted was that Police Chief Matthew Kline had proposed a five-year plan for the police department.

  Oglesby said, “kudos to him for thinking ahead in looking for the needs of both staffing and what his plans are for the department itself. It was a productive meeting and he gave us a lot to think about.”

  Also noted was that the new owners of what was the former La Bove Grande Banquet hall property located in the Lakehurst Circle will be addressing the mayor and council at its next meeting.

  Mayor Robbins said that the meeting had been hoped for during the Aug. 20 council meeting but they were unable to attend and outline their plans for the property in a presentation to the governing body and the public.