In the upcoming November 2015 election, Bergen County Republicans will have the chance to usurp three seats on the Board of Chosen Freeholders currently occupied by Freeholder Vice Chairman Steve Tanelli, Freeholder Tracy Silna Zur and Freeholder Thomas Sullivan Jr.
The incumbent Democrats are opposed by Republicans John Mitchell, Ken Tyburczy and Daisy Ortiz-Berger.
For Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin, the main determining factor of the upcoming November freeholder election is going to be property taxes.
“There was a four percent increase in the total budget this year under the Democratic majority,” Yudin said. “That increase led to increased property taxes.”
According to Yudin, since Democrats currently have the majority on the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders—only two of the seven members are Republican—the issue of increasing the budget became a partisan one.
“To call it non-partisan is a joke,” Yudin told PolitickerNJ. “We need a serious reduction in the budget. The Republican Party in Bergen County is overwhelmingly in favor of a reduction in property taxes.
Eschewing Yudin’s argument, Democrats note that the chairman of the budget process was Freeholder John Felice, a Republican; and that the budget passed 7-0 with GOP support.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), also believes that property taxes are an issue in New Jersey. However, she thinks that the issue stems from a reduction in state funding to schools and counties, not a function of there being a democratic majority on the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“I think property taxes are a problem in New Jersey, a big problem,” Weinberg said. “But I don’t think that anybody believes that one party or the other owns it or that one group of freeholders is going to find a unilateral solution.”
For Weinberg, any increase in taxes was necessary to address “issues that had been left unattended for a long time” under the leadership before James J. Tedesco III became County Executive in January.
Tanelli agreed, noting that the tax increase was “about $10” per household.
“This is the first year that we have had a cooperative County Executive that is willing to work with us,” he told PolitickerNJ. “They may say that we raised taxes but really, we are doing damage control, restoring things that had been cut in the previous years. We are restoring education funding that had been cut, helping underserved populations like our veterans and increasing mental health care.”
Tanelli, who hails from South Bergen, said that while in some cases “a 10 cent increase can make a difference to someone,” overall the increase will have a positive impact on Bergen.
In addition to the Republican challengers, the Democratic Freeholder incumbents are also opposed by Peter J. Rohrman, a Libertarian, and Richard Siegel, who is running as a Green Party candidate.