Bernards Mayor John Carpenter's 'State of the Township' Report

New mayor focuses on financial matters in opening remarks at first Township Committee meeting of 2014.

John Carpenter, sworn in as 2014's mayor, with wife, Lauren, son Tom and daughter Sarah with Bible.  Courtesy of John Carpenter
John Carpenter, sworn in as 2014's mayor, with wife, Lauren, son Tom and daughter Sarah with Bible. Courtesy of John Carpenter
Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of remarks made by Bernards Township Mayor John Carpenter, who was selected as mayor for 2014 by his fellow Township Committee members at Thursday's annual reorganization mayor. Carpenter served once previously as mayor, in 2008. He is pictured here with Bernards Township Municipal Clerk Denise Szabo, his wife Lauren, son, Tom and daughter Sarah, who is holding the Bible as he was sworn in. His daughter Hannah was absent due to weather. Carpenter had served as deputy mayor in 2013, and has been elected three times to the Township Committee, with his third term running through 2014.

Fellow citizens and honored guests, welcome.

I’d like to recognize: Senator [Tom] Kean, [Somerset County] Freeholders, Sheriff and Locals.


1.     Board and commission members 

2.     All volunteer first-responders

a.     Basking Ridge Fire Co. No. 1

b.     Liberty Corner Fire Co.

c.      Liberty Corner First Aid

Finally, friends and family: In particular, my wife Lauren

Thank you all for attending this evening.

I have good news…By every measure, Bernards Township is in excellent condition:

1.    We are financially strong

2.    We are safe

3.    Our municipal staff is second to none

4.    Bernards Township is one of the best places to live in the United States of America

With respect to finances…

1.     Essentially debt free — our [remaining] debt is funded by Open Space tax.

2.     AAA bond rating — Only 18 municipalities in N.J. have a triple-A bond rating.

§  Among those 18 towns:

1.     Lowest Debt/Capita ($517)

2.     Highest reserves as a percentage of debt at 113%.

3.     Reserves are strong and getting stronger.

a.     Cushion the impact of the current recession

b.     Deal with unanticipated events

4.     Taxes for municipal services are in check.  

§  Since 2005, municipal taxes in NJ have risen by a jaw dropping 57 percent!

§  In that same time, municipal taxes in Bernards have risen by 5 percent

§  We’ve accomplished this while suffering an inequitable 30 percent reduction in state aid; swallowing enormous state pension bill increases [and]

o   Weathering several severe storms

o   Coping with the ongoing recession

o   Paying off outstanding (non open space) debt

5.   When it comes to fiscal responsibility and financial health:Bernards Township is showing the way, not just within Somerset County or even New Jersey, but nationally. 

Our town is safe:

1.   We have one of the lowest crime rates in Somerset County. 

2.   Our police department is a gem. Its members are highly professional, dedicated and educated.

3.   There is a true partnership between our police force and our all-volunteer first responders.

4.   Here’s an important fact about our police force. Its members are trained in First Aid. That’s not true in every town.

The police are almost always first on the scene for every first aid and fire call. They’ve saved a lot of lives over the years simply by being trained. 

Bernards Township has an extraordinary administrative staff….

1.  Since 2005 we’ve reduced our municipal headcount by about 20 [employees].

2.  At the same time, we’ve kept service levels high and raised our expectations. 

3.  We are continually assessing and developing internal talent…and we promote from within whenever possible. 

Today, we have the finest municipal staff in the entire state. 

The mutual respect and teamwork between this governing body and our municipal staff is, in my mind, extraordinary. And it is a key part of the governmental success we’ve achieved.

I’m confident that the next generation of administrative leadership will be every bit as good as today’s.

The quality of life in Bernards Township is second to none:

  •  We have ample open space and parks
  •  There are numerous cultural and recreational opportunities for all ages.
  • Our community is vibrant. 
  • People volunteer their time and energy to make their community better.
  • Bernards is an amazing place because its residents expect it to be. They require it.

This is the first meeting of the Township in this newly renovated meeting room.

1.     Named in honor of Warren Kraft

a.     Served on the Township Committee from 1942-1961

b.     Records indicate that he continued serving on various boards and committees until 1985. (43 yrs) 

1.     Renovations long overdue. [The previous meeting room was] dank, moldy, leaky, and inadequate.

2.     [The] new room is multi purpose, [and can be used for]

3.     Emergency use (new generator) — Hurricane lessons

4.     Cost-effectively done, [costing] 72 percent of original estimate — $370,000 instead of $514,000. [Features of new room:}

a.     engineering

b.     Information Technology

c.     Department of Public Works

5.    Most importantly — renovations provide more and better public access and information.

So what can you expect from your municipal government in the year ahead?

In the interest of even better communication and exchange of information with residents I’m going to revive a practice initiated by my former colleague [Township Committeeman] Scott Spitzer. 

This year I’m going to host a series of brown bag Llunches at different venues around town. 

1.  There will be no agenda. 

2.  We’ll talk about whatever comes up. 

3.  I’m looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind.

4.  Look to the towns website for dates and locations.

You can expect continued fiscal responsibility and conservative municipal management.

Low taxes — Focus on the municipal tax levy — real dollars from taxpayers

  • Smaller, more efficient government
  • Spending restraint
  • Strong reserves
  • Long term planning
  • Pay as you go policy
  • Debt avoidance

Adherence to these principles is the foundation of our governmental philosophy and success.

They have served us well in the past and they will do so again in 2014.

I am honored to be your mayor.

Thank you.

John Carpenter

Basking Ridge


Tom January 04, 2014 at 01:04 PM
Congratulations to Mayor Carpenter and Deputy Mayor Malay. Our community is in good hands with both of them leading our dedicated Township Council in 2014. Bernards Township is well served.


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