Incumbents Return to Borough Council
Hopatcong Republicans Richard Bunce and Marie Ryder Galante handily defeated Democratic challengers Mara Modes and John Pezzino on Tuesday.
With the Hopatcong Borough Council election behind him, newly re-elected Republican Richard Bunce said Wednesday it is time to move forward with plans the council has put in place.
Bunce and fellow GOP member Marie Ryder Galante were voted back to the dais Tuesday for a pair of three-year terms. The veteran council members easily sidestepped challenges from Democrats Mara Modes and John Pezzino.
Bunce was the leading vote-getter on Election Day with 2,704 votes, according to unofficial results released by the Sussex County Clerk’s Office. Galante received 2,664 votes, Pezzino, 2,052 votes and Modes, 1,956.
The election came weeks after the council approved a reassessment for all borough properties and the Highlands Council approved the designation of Hopatcong as a town center. Meanwhile, the borough faces new 2013 budget challenges in light of a mandated 2 percent tax levy cap.
Bunce, 56, has served on the council since 2003. He owns his own construction business and has lived in Hopatcong for 21 years. He said he wants to continue to "get things done and move the borough forward.
"The voters seem to agree with us," he said. "We want to keep things moving in a positive direction.”
Bunce said a key project facing the borough is using the new town center designation from the Highlands Commission to attract development to the River Styx section of the lake waterfront.
That town center designation was a key step in developing a comprehensive development plan for the borough, Bunce said. The impact of the designation will have a positive impact on plans to develop the River Styx area of the borough’s lakefront, where developers have indicated an interest in building.
The reassessment was important because it will balance property values across the borough, Bunce said.
Galante, 43, is owner and operator of A Cut Above, a local hair salon. She has been on the council since 2007. She previously served on the council from 1997 to 1999 and has lived in the borough for 39 years.
Galante said the reassessment brought the borough’s tax assessments back into balance. That imbalance generated more than 300 tax appeals in the past two years, she said. The defense of the appeals raised the borough legal costs, which are part of the budget affected by the 2 percent levy cap.
"The borough’s budget was well below that cap limit last year, the first year the cap was in place,” Galante said. She said the council is approaching 2013 budget preparations expecting little additional state aid, but with the goal of maintaining a flat budget.