Gotto Stands on Record During Howell Chamber Event
Deputy Mayor discusses plan for the future in Mayor's race
In the third event held by the Howell Chamber of Commerce for candidates running for Mayor in November's election Deputy Mayor William Gotto said he has a vision for the future of the township if he is elected.
Following similar events held with independent candidate Elaine Taylor and Democratic candidate William Field, Gotto said he believes his time on the council is a benefit as he seeks to succeed Mayor Robert Walsh who opted not to run for another term. "I think both of the other candidates, they've got their own ideas and visions and I've got mine," he said. "I've got results and I'm proud of those results so whether I went first or last it wouldn't have changed a single thing I said."
The fact that he is an incumbent and will continue to serve on the council regardless of the election results Gotto said also works in his favor. "It hasn't been about me," he said of his record on the council. "It's been about the group of people that I've been with and I surround myself with good people that have good visions. That's why I'm happy with my record and I'm hearing most people are happy with that record."
Speaking to local business members Gotto said he believed they played an important role in the community. "The goal of the business community for me is you are the biggest source of sustainable revenue," he said. "We need your tax dollars and we need your shoppers to come in because that helps the town so we want you here."
Wanting local businesses here and having them succeed are two areas Gotto admitted the township needs to work on in the future. He said the average for commercial ratables in Monmouth County is close to 22 percent while in Howell that number is closer to 11. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where the majority of the tax burden is going. It's going to our residential property owners," he said. "That is not a sustainable model for us to be able to grow in the future."
Since he came on the council Gotto said they have been working on ways to help lighten the burden on the taxpayers. "We have some ideas on how to do that," he said. "It's not going to get solved tomorrow, but we're talking about it, we're putting the foundation in place and you can't grow until you get the foundation."
In the past Gotto has said that the township has a revenue problem and not a spending problem. "I stand behind that," he said at Wednesday's event. "If you look at what we've spent and how we've spent it we've spent every penny very wisely."
Since 2009 he said the township's total budget has increased .6 percent while the capital expenditures have dropped 61.2 percent. "It's simple math. You have to be able to make sure you don't spend what you're not taking in, you can't burden future generations with debt and you have to make sure you're spending every dollar as though it were your own," he said.
Another area affecting the township's revenue has been their return on investments which dropped from $1.5 million in 2008 to just $100 thousand in 2012. "Every time we take in less revenue it means more and more that the residential property owners have to pay out of their pockets," he said.
To help encourage businesses to thrive in the township Gotto said the administration has taken several steps over the past few years. "Howell isn't the way it is by accident," he said. "It was because people who were here for known periods of time, the so called vocal minority that doesn't want anything to change."
Things like what was permitted in different parts of the town, especially on major roadways like Route 33 were all a part of that he said. "We are no longer willing to say that that's acceptable," Gotto said. "The things we've put in place is we've started to look at our zoning and our infrastructure. We've expanded all the conditional and permitted uses and all of our economic corridors and all the zones that fit in that."
A common thread for all the candidates at the chamber events has been the possibility of sewers on roads like 33 where Wednesday's event was held at The Cabin. Gotto said while there are plans for that, they will not be cheap and cannot be done on a whim. "We're not in the shape right now to spend tens of millions of dollars on sewers," he said. "When we do things the right way over a three to five year plan we could get to that point."
In the future Gotto said the administration will try to "re-brand the town," to make it more attractive to potential businesses. "I want to re-brand the town because it gets a little aggravating for me personally that when I come from the north and I come from Freehold I see one municipality that looks one way and you know when you get to Howell."
Depending on how you get into town Gotto said there is a different feeling when you cross Howell's borders. "It doesn't look like you're proud to be in Howell. We want you to be proud to be in Howell. We want you to be able to say my business is in this town, I'm a resident of this town and I want to be able to tell people the good things about being in this town."
One big aspect of changing the views of the township, according to Gotto is the new municipal building which will host its first meeting of the Mayor and Council next Tuesday. He said discussions have been going on for more than 20 years about what should be done with the old building and he was glad that the current council was able to take those discussions and act on them. "If you think for a second that I was going to spend $15 million on a 100-year-old building and think I was going to solve all the problems, I'm not going to straddle problems with the guy that's going to come after me, I'm going to fix the problem now."
With the township able to buy the property at a lower cost than had been originally presented several years ago and at no additional cost to taxpayers, Gotto said "It was a good opportunity that other people didn't have so that's what we did."
"The reason we did it was because that is the single point that will change the face of Howell Township for the next 10 years," Gotto added.
When all the departments are moved into the new building, Gotto said he is confident residents will see why the township made the move to consolidate their operations. "You're going to walk in on the second floor and see exactly what the plan was and I think you'll like it."
Another advantage of the new building is that it will generate $500 thousand in annual income from tenants leasing space on the first floor. "It was the single source of new revenue that we brought into this town and it is sustainable," he said. "There are people that are knocking on our door to rent more space or to expand space that they already have. That's a growing enterprise over there. It was one of the best things that this town could have done," he said.
The completion of the transition to Route 9 will be an important step for the township, but Gotto said there is more work to be done for the future as well as the present. "When I started all this I said I wanted to make this town affordable for my kids to live in," he said. 'It's not right now. My daughter's in college. I don't know if she's ever going to be able to afford a house like the one I live in, be able to pay the taxes and be able to grow her family in this town."
Later in the day Field and Taylor were scheduled to compete in a debate being held at Georgian Court University, an event which Gotto declined to take part in.