Balancing Lawrence Township's Budget
Patch wants residents of Lawrence Township to help set priorities for the Township Council as it attempts to trim more than $2 million from its spending plan. Offer your thoughts and vote in our poll.
Patch users want the cost of trash collection to continue to be covered by their municipal taxes.
A weekend poll on Lawrenceville Patch showed overwhelming support for municipal trash collection. The poll, which was unscientific, attracted 229 votes and 66 comments.
The budget cuts are necessary because a tax referendum, which sought permission to raise the municipal tax rate 9 cents above the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap, was rejected by township voters by a 2-1 margin on April 24, with more than 3,700 total votes cast.
The results of the poll, which was live on the Lawrenceville site from 6 p.m. Friday to Wednesday at noon, were:
- The council should continue to pay for trash collection through municipal taxes?
- The council should charge residents a fee for collection with an ability to opt out?
- The council should stop providing trash collection and require residents to contract on their own?
Patch users offered a variety of suggestions on how the township should balance the budget going forward:
Rankandfile said the police and council should explore contractual givebacks to avoid buyouts.
“This police chief and deputy chief should also be asked to retire. This will not only save money but also save a couple positions in the ranks below them. Let's not forget the captains’ pay that the town is also saving. Get rid of the court attendant and let the Police Department provide courtroom security. There is a clerk retiring in the Police Department who doesn't need to be replaced and two dispatcher positions that are open. That's a lot of money.”
Plant It suggests ending monthly brush collection.
“It's got too be an expensive service to run that equipment every day and all year long. I think once or twice a year would be appropriate. Can they put a price tag on this service?”
Dokieartiechokie said township police already has done its share, adding that further cuts could create bigger problems.
“A la carte garbage collection is (not) a remotely good idea. Your neighbor decides to 'opt out' of collection or doesn't pay their bill and, voila, you've got a public health hazard on your hands. I am not interested in increasing the vermin population, thanks very much. The cuts can be found other ways; the garbage collection has become a distraction from the real issue here.”
Lorraine thinks the township needs to “take a good hard look at those that don't pay taxes, at least not their fair share, such as The Lawrenceville Prep School.”
“They have a lot of houses on those grounds for their employees and they don't pay taxes on those houses and the people in those houses send their children to our public schools. Do they pay school taxes, or do they pay tutition for those children going to our public schools. Let's also look at Rider University, do they pay taxes on that big house the president lives in and the one that the dean of students lives in and the house that houses the campus ministry. If everyone is suppose to pay their fair share then lets get these two institutions to pay up a little more.”
Joe Russo said “impartial eyes, with no attachments to anything or anyone, are needed.”
“It's obvious that there is a shortage of revenue, and confidence. Compromise is the first step: Citizen volunteers who do not hold public office.”
LawrencevilleMom called the township’s trash collection “adequate, but not posh by any standards.” “I grew up in a different area where trash was collected three times a week and recycling was collected once a week. What we have in Lawrenceville is the absolute minimum level of service. I think this town can and should continue to be responsible for trash service. It is cheaper and more efficient this way, and there is no risk of garbage piling up at homes that can't or won't pay the user fee.”
Lawrence Pride called for “smart thinking.”
“Knee Jerk reactions will cost you more money down the line. You're trying to patch a hole in the center of a dam where a small amount of water is leaking, while neglecting to realize that the dam itself was built on a faulty foundation and it is the contractors who are at fault. Basically I'm saying that a beaver could do a better job than our township manager.”
Patrick offered a list of potential cuts. “1. Cut local 911 services. We spend close to half a million on 911. Consolidate with Mercer County and the savings would be, say, $250,000
“2. We spend three quarters of a million on emergency services. Outsource these to local hospitals, and sell them off as usage rights, is in if you want to provide ambulance services in this township, you need to pay a yearly fee. Even if we keep a small local fund to pay for those unable to pay, we could save $400,000.
“3. We keep over $4.2 million in reserve for uncollected taxes. Halve that, and pay a law firm as much as $250k to collect these taxes: savings $1.7 million.
“4. Debt. We carry year-to-year $3.9 million in debt. Try and renegotiate these loans. ... I have to guess here, but I would figure 5 percent savings saving $195,000
5. Revenue forecasts. Last year, revenue besides property taxes was forecast at $7 million; the actual number was close to $7.6. In this year’s budget, it is forecast at $7.7 million, which keeps numbers flat from the red light camera. We all know that camera is bringing in more then last year. This extra income should be applied to the $2.6 million needed surplus.
“That's 2.5 million is guesstimated saving after looking over the budget. Some will take longer to reap rewards to the township, others may not even be able to happen because of contracts... but that's my stab at it.”
Richard said that the township needs to make budget cuts, but should be “creative and start collecting more revenue. “
“Just like at home when times are bad, you look for a second job or part-time job. The answer to debt is to bring in more revenue, not raise taxes from hard-working residents. There are ways to do this: become more business friendly and offer incentives to businesses to open here in Lawrence. Maybe lower taxes for one year, start a rent cap for businesses. Lots of businesses left Lawrence because the landlords skyrocketed their rents so suddenly. It's almost like the landlord wants to be a partner in their tenants’ business. Another way to collect revenue is through traffic tickets. Let's face it, we all live in a neighborhood where we see drivers ignoring stop signs, etc. What happened to the days when police would park behind the bush then pull you over for racing through a stop sign or speeding? Cameras are nice, but the township employees are whining about too much they have to put into reading complaints. Give me a break, you might have to work like the rest of us in the real world. When our boss gives us more work we just do it because if we complain we get fired! So much revenue could be generated by traffic tickets and the township roads would be safer.
Harry Hartman said that layoffs are inevitable, though the township should keep them to a minimum.
“Remember, those young officers that are going to be laid off are the future of that department. In an open council meeting several years ago, I heard the chief speak about retirements, something to the effect that several officers will be retiring in a very short period of time. If you cut things to the bare bones, then what will happen when all of these officers retire. From what I understand, it takes approximately one year to hire and train a new officer. Does the town have a contingency plan for when there is a mass retirement within the LPD.”
While this poll has closed, we do not want the debate to end. What are the programs you think must not be touched at any cost?
Vote in the poll and offer some thoughts in the comments below.