Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Candidates at Odds over Town Spending

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Candidates at Odds over Town Spending

Article excerpt

TEANECK -- During a fifth debate just one week before the election, the candidates for Township Council differed on how to handle municipal spending, how to deal with a pending complaint against a local hospital, and even slightly on the topic of the vast diversity of Teaneck's residents.

The debate Monday evening was held at Congregation Netivot Shalom off Palisade Avenue. It came more than a week after the death of 44- year-old Mayor Lizette Parker, who was rushed to a hospital with respiratory issues on April 24. Parker's death leaves a fourth vacancy on the council, but voters on May 10 will choose among seven candidates to fill three council vacancies.

Township Manager William Broughton has said the current council will meet to go over how to fill Parker's vacancy.

All of the candidates were at the debate except for Jacob Herenstein, a first-time candidate who has not attended any debates.

The first topic posed to the candidates was a familiar one: discretionary spending by the local government.

Council challengers Stephen Gruber, Michael Pagan and Chondra Young all said the council has a spending problem. They pointed to areas where spending either has been or could be looked at for further cost reductions, such has payments made to municipal employees who choose not to be insured through the township. The council recently fixed how the payments were administered, savings hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Teaneck does not have a revenue problem. Teaneck has a spending problem," Pagan said.

Meanwhile, the incumbents -- Mohammed Hameeduddin, Mark Schwartz and Henry Pruitt -- defended the council's work. They said in government, it is not simple to cut unionized jobs or services. Gruber mentioned looking at the Fire Department, which is paid, to see if there could be any savings, to which Schwartz responded that the township needs its almost 100-member professional firefighting force. A volunteer department, he said, could need 400 volunteers.

"Can someone tell me who wants to do that?" Schwartz asked.

Related to taxes, an audience member asked for the candidates' positions regarding seeking taxes from Holy Name Medical Center. …

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