In what some suggested were conveniently-timed remarks, Stafford Mayor John Spodofora delivered a "state of the township" address at last night's Township Council Meeting.
In the address, Spodofora addressed some issues that have been raised at "meet and greet" events around the township being hosted by "We are Stafford," a panel of candidates who are challenging Spodofora and other incumbents in the November election.
"We are Stafford" includes Mayoral candidate Paul Marchal, David Taylor, incumbent Joanne Sitek, Christopher McManus, Esther Libenschek, Ben Pieper, and Brian Corley White for Council. Marchal is one of two independent candidates taking on Spodofora in the November election. Another independent candidate, who is not affiliated with "We Are Stafford," Thomas Litwin, of the Beach Haven West section was arrested and charged recently for trying to sell marijuana to an undercover police officer.
In the address, Spodofora noted that since he has been on the finance board in 2009, there has been a total decline in average percent tax increases in town, and that residents are paying on average about $171 a month in taxes.
Spodofora added that the township's budget has also been on a steady decline and has leveled out in recent years, thanks in large part to a reduction of 33 full-time Stafford Townshp staffers since 2002, and a reduction in overtime pay to many township workers, including Public Works and Police. He also touted a shared services agreement with Ship Bottom, which brings in about $87,000 for the township annually. He noted the township is also looking at other shared service possiblities with other municipalities as well.
Spodofora also addressed the township's gross debt. He noted that "a lot has been said" about the township's debt, and indeed, the We are Stafford candidates have taken aim at the township's net debt. Spodofora noted that the gross debt has been reduced, while We are Stafford notes that the net bonding debt has actually increased.
David Taylor, who was in the audience at the meeting, stood up during the public comment portion of the meeting and called Spodofora's address a "very nice campaign ad." He then took aim and noted that the council "dumped $2 million worth of water bills on the small busineses in this town, so you didn't do that good a job."
Taylor has honed in on the lack of small businesses in the township's main business district in comments at some of the We Are Stafford meet and greets.
Sitek also asked Spodofora about the timing of his comments, and Spodofora responded that since the township is just getting started on next year's budget, he "wanted to give everybody an update on where we are, how some of those thigns we did turned out, and wanted to thank all of the electorate for their work."