Editor’s note: Each of the two candidates running for a seat on the Brick Township Council were sent a questionnaire by Brick Shorebeat. Both responded. Their answers to our questions will be published on our site verbatim. We have disabled comments on profile articles to ensure the candidates’ statements speak for themselves and readers can decide, without additional, potentially anonymous commentary, their view on those running for office.
Full Name: Andrea Lee Zapcic
Current Age: 57
Highest Level of Education Achieved (optional: include degree/institution or professional certification, etc.): BA in Speech Communications & Theatre, Monmouth University
Question 1: Brick Township suffered a significant blow to its tax base during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. With recovery from the storm not nearly complete, please describe your plan to ensure the relative stability of the tax rate in a township where many families feel they cannot afford an increased tax burden. Please be specific in listing any ways you feel the township could either cut expenses or generate revenue.
Whether on the revenue side or the expense side of the budget, the key is sustainability. Often when people hear that word, they think of the environment. However, the concept of sustainability goes beyond energy efficiency and recycling (although both are extremely important to the discussion).
Across the board, all policies and practices need to contribute to fiscal sustainability in measurable and meaningful ways. Building a $22 million dollar marina – the revenue from which will likely never meet or exceed its cost to run – is not a sustainable practice. Draining our surplus to under a million dollars to avoid a tax increase in an election year is not a sustainable practice. Outsourcing essential services without a cost-benefit analysis or failing to adequately maintain or replace aging equipment is not a sustainable practice. Installing red light cameras to generate revenue under the guise of safety is not a sustainable practice.
So what are we doing to stabilize taxes? On the expense side, we have eliminated several deputy director positions- saving $470,000 in the first year. This is a permanent and sustainable change- there was no need for these unnecessary layers of management. We have reduced overtime costs by $370,000 dollars, and changed the management culture so department heads understand that overtime must be tightly controlled. We have bid and will continue to bid electrical services, saving $100,000 a year.
On the revenue side, we are maximizing our Medicare reimbursements, bringing in $750,000 in new revenue. We have put in place a program to collect delinquent court fees- there are $730,000 in outstanding fees that can be used to help maintain our court system, reducing the burden on taxpayers. We are aggressively seeking grants, and this year have brought in a $3.75 million Sandy Essential Services grant.
And of course there is the “Buy in Brick” program, which will give taxpayers a rebate on their taxes when they dine or shop at participating businesses in Brick.
The result- we have stabilized municipal taxes for the first time in many years. The 2011 Tax Levy (the amount of municipal taxes paid by all the taxpayers in Brick) was $67,815,396. This year, the levy remained at $67 million- $67,911,538.
Question 2: For members of both parties, allegations of cronyism have led to countless controversies in Brick in years past. In what ways will you work to make government more transparent and ensure the most qualified candidates are selected for positions serving the township, whether paid or voluntarily appointed?
Mayor Ducey has set the standard on this since his first day in office when he put out a call for citizens willing to serve on boards and committees to submit resumes or letters of interest. We were pleased with the response, and have appointed over 30 people to our various boards and committees. Many were “first timers”- Brick residents who had never before been involved in civic affairs, but heard the call and decided to become involved. Others were experienced, and a number of qualified appointees from the previous administration were reappointed. Since I joined the Council in January, whenever there has been a vacancy, those resumes have been reviewed in order to select the most qualified for the position.
As to paid positions, our most important hire was our Township Administrator, who was hired after a thorough and open statewide search. Many resumes were reviewed, several people were interviewed, and the most qualified hired. This is as it should be.
When we reinstated BMAC earlier this year, the Mayor once again put out a request for interested citizens to apply. He and I were both amazed at the number of highly credentialed individuals who applied for these volunteer positions. Because the Mayor was open to the process and did not “pre-cast” any of the spots, we now have, for the first time, an Alliance with a substantial number of working professionals in the fields of social services, mental health and substance abuse prevention.
I will continue to support the policy of open and fair hiring, will support a strong anti-nepotism policy, and will continue to fill board and committee positions with the best candidate for the job.
Question 3: With Ocean County continuing to face a heroin epidemic, coupled with increasing concerns over gang activity and criminal elements operating within the township, what are some specific policies you would support toward crime reduction and/or prevention? Do you believe Brick Township should devote more resources to its police department and, if so, what do you believe is the best way to fund such an effort?
First, let me be clear – it is imperative that we provide our police officers with the resources necessary to carry out their work of keeping our neighborhoods safe. However, what I have heard time and time again from everyone our Governor to the Acting Attorney General of the State of New Jersey to the Chief of Police here in Brick Township is that we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem. Chief Bergquist summed it up best at a recent BMAC meeting when he said “The police department is really good at arresting these people, whether they are using or selling. What we are not so good at is turning off the flow of new users coming in. I think that should be our focus.”
From 1990 to 2012, Brick Township had one of the top performing, community- based substance abuse programs in the state, BMAC (Brick Municipal Alliance Committee). With grant-funding from the state along with a Township subsidy, BMAC delivered high-quality, evidence based programs that included an early childhood intervention program (ages 4 – 6), a peer-to-peer tobacco prevention program (grades 4 – 7), a peer-to- peer alcohol and drug prevention program (grades 6 – 8), a peer mentoring program (grades 9 – 12) along with the well-known Basketball and Softball leagues, the Brick Youth Club (grades 6 – 8) and BYC Teen Advisors (grades 9 – 12). Simply put, we had the opportunity to deliver a prevention message to a child and his or her family from as early as 4 or 5 years old right up through high school. The total annual impact on the property tax rate was two-tenths of a cent.
Prevention is critical. For every dollar spent on prevention, it is estimated that $10 is saved on treatment and nearly $20 on societal costs.
The newly reformed BMAC will be eligible for grant funding from the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse beginning July 1, 2015. One of the other things that BMAC also did very well was raise money – through donations, sponsorships and fundraisers – and that will continue. The programs will be funded via the grant and the money fundraised. We will also aggressively pursue additional grants as well as opportunities to partner with other agencies and organizations to expand existing resources for maximum reach and impact.
The solution to the problem will require a coordinated effort that includes the Mayor and Council to create effective policies and ordinances, and the Land Use and Police departments to enforce them. It will also include BMAC working with our school district, local treatment providers, the Ocean County Health Department and Ocean County’s Regional Prevention Coalition to implement effective prevention programs for the community.
Question 4: You may use this space to make a personal statement as to why you are running for township council and why you feel you are the best candidate for the seat for which you are running.
As a member of the Ducey team, I have been able to make a difference here in Brick. Together, with the Mayor and the other members of Council, we have eliminated the red light cameras, brought back B-MAC to fight the heroin epidemic, reinstated the Gang Tax Force (all while stabilizing the tax levy), and cut unnecessary expenses.
My professional career combines 18 years working in the private sector, along with 16 years in the public sector, including working as the Superintendent of Recreation in Brick. During my tenure in Brick, I had a proven track record of effective fiscal management and leveraging resources to maintain services without increasing costs, while lowering the department budget request in each of the four years I was the department head. My years of experience working both in a large municipality and a much smaller one has afforded me knowledge and insight into the day to day operations of local government. Combined with my years of working in the private sector, for both large and small companies, as well as extensive non-profit experience, I am able to appreciate the challenges and opportunities faced not only by our local government, but also by the business and service sectors of our community.