Letter to the Editor: The 3.8% Garbage Tax and the Fiscal Cliff

How the Lawrence Town council is avoiding its own fiscal cliff with a new 3.8% Garbage Tax.

The Fiscal Cliff looms.  Locked in closed door meetings Politicians argue and grab for "revenue" in any way they can to avoid "going over the cliff."

The Beltway?  1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?  Nope.  2207 Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville, NJ.

Yes, the fiscal cliff looms.  After fighting and clawing, threatening and browbeating, the Town Council in 2012 Unanimously tried to increase our taxes by 17% in order to sustain the massive payroll, salaries, and benefits to our public sector employees.  After the taxpayers shot it down 2 to 1 in April, one of the Councilmen actually denied attempting the referendum on the record on Tuesday December 4.  Dr. Maffei emphatically stated that it wasn't true and he doesn't want it said anymore until "you can prove it."  Well it's already been proven by readers as well as the editor of the Lawrence Patch.

So what does this have to do with Garbage?  Well, we still have our own fiscal cliff, the 2013 Budget.  It seems that the result of the closed door meetings at 2207 Lawrence Road have produced a new 2013 "revenue" grab, Ordinance 6D, introduced Tuesday night, about 25 minutes after Dr. Maffei denied 2012's shakedown.

Ordinance 6D, if adopted by council on December 18, will give Council the authority to set a mandatory "Bulk Waste Collection Fee" to all residents who own property (here's the catch) whether they use the service or not!  Let's repeat this because it's worth seriously noting.  They are going to charge you an annual fee (from 0 to 55 dollars) for something that you may have never used and may never use.  If you don't pay this fee, they will put a lien on your house.  If you do need to have a bulk item picked up, you will pay an additional fee for the ACTUAL pickup.  Welcome to the official start of the 2013 shakedown season - The 3.8% Garbage Tax.

The average house in Lawrence is assessed at $160,828.  That's the figure 2207 Lawrence Road uses to explain tax increases, so I'll use the same illustration.  The current municipal tax rate is 89.1 cents for every $100 of assessed value.  So the average property owner pays $1,432.98 in municipal taxes every year.  Add to that the new $55 "Bulk Waste Collection Fee" and bingo, bango, presto, you've got a 3.8% Garbage Tax increase.  (Psst. - Don't tell Dr Maffei in case he needs to deny it.)

Make no mistake.  The fee will be mandatory, whether you use the service or not.  If you don't pay, the town has every right to treat you as they would treat you for being delinquent on your taxes.  But hold on, according to Dr Maffei, this is for your benefit.  He and his fellow council-members voted unanimously to introduce Ordinance 6D - the 3.8% Garbage Tax.  

Yes, up to $400,000 in new "revenue" is available for the politicians at 2207 Lawrence Road, so they're not really sweating going over the fiscal cliff.  The only problem (for us that is), is that there's a 5-0 majority, and we have no voice.  This isn't a referendum.  There's no get-out-the-vote effort possible here.  All you need to hear is 3 "ayes" on Dec 18, and the 3.8% Garbage Tax is here to stay.

One thing is for certain, and that's this:  After 11 months of this nonsense, This Garbage still Stinks!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Fed Up in Lawrence December 06, 2012 at 06:30 PM
BRAVO ! this explains the situation exactly. Township Council has acted irresponsibly and continues to do so. They are totally out of touch with Lawrence residents. And, even after laying off cops and firefighters, the Manager still received his bonus!
grill master December 06, 2012 at 07:27 PM
More people need to go to the meetings to voice their disgust with the council and their backdoor taxes! If enough people revolt against them they will cave....just like a bully in elementary school!!
Chief Wahoo December 06, 2012 at 08:38 PM
If you do need to have a bulk item picked up, you will pay an additional fee for the ACTUAL pickup..... WOW ! Are you kidding ??? REVOLT NOW !
the trash collector December 07, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Hey Ramos!!!! This is what I think about your letter to the editor. Whaaaa the township can't cut any more jobs. Whaaaaa I have to pay money and my taxes have to go up...Whaaaa I have to open my fat wallet now. How bout this pal the well has run dry and there is no where else to cut. What did you think was going to happen? Stop patting yourself on the back at every council meeting and become part of the solution not the problem. While you stand on your soap box casting blame along with your two other cohorts who do the same thing how bout you come up with some real ideas. Unfortunately this Township is in a major financial bind. You can no longer cut services. So guess what pal? Open your wallet instead of your mouth and take a heaping of your own stinky garbage. It's time you pay the piper like the rest of the employees in the township and the south enders of Lawrence. Your time has come. The trash collector is here and the payment starts now Mr. Ramos.
cathy g December 07, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Oh my! Thats some post trash collector. Thanks for the letter, Mr. Ramos. I feel the amount of money we pay now requires an unattainable service level already. This just heaps more expectation on an already heavy burden. Its great to good w/numbers, but you need a leader in place to understand whats expected by those numbers. These folks on council cant seem to grasp that. I know they'll probably vote this through without a second look, but know that how I'll be voting come November.
Max R December 07, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Cathy, thanks for the comment. Please urge your friends and neighbors to come to town council Dec 18 at 6:30 and tell them you won't accept this backdoor 4% tax hike. Put it on your calendar.
Cowboy December 07, 2012 at 07:28 PM
dont pay the money. what can they do, put you in jail and fine you? i doubt that any court would inforce this stupid ordinance (outside of Lawrence) if a resident never uses the service? its called theft by deception. why not charge the residents when they do use the service? as for keeping up with other townships thast really stupid, I use moms old time saying I dont care what other people do they are not my concern, you are. alrighty then, ok bye bye now.
Max R December 07, 2012 at 07:42 PM
They won't put you in jail, but you bet they will fine you. Then if you still don't pay the fee, they'll charge you interest and then sell the obligation against a lien on your property. Fully legal and it will hold up in court.
Chief Wahoo December 07, 2012 at 09:13 PM
anyone who pays this theft, is a fool !!!.....the earliest they could sell your trash bill, is 18 months and then the earliest any lien collector can make a move is another 24 months !!!.....thats almost 4 years......the world will be a much different place in 4 years STOP BEING AFRAID AND DO SOMETHING ......STARVE THE MACHINE THAT IS CRUSHING YOU !!!!!
Naomi Mat December 08, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Wait, I thought the argument for a flat fee was that it would cost money and time to have someone take the fee on an individual basis. Now we would have the fee and THEN pay an additional fee? Who would be taking that additional fee? And why can't they just take all of the money to begin with? I have no problem paying for the service if I use it. But why should I subsidize my neighbor's trash habit?
Michael Ratcliffe (Editor) December 10, 2012 at 01:26 PM
If the ordinance is approved and a flat annual fee is assessed against all property owners for bulk trash pickup, you would not have to pay additional fee to dispose of an item. This point is addressed in the following email that was sent over the weekend by Lawrence Township Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis: "I read the letter to the editor from Max Ramos and would ask that you correct one factual piece of information that seems to have caused signifigant debate within the comment thread. The ordinance would establish a fee for bulk trash instead of requiring residents to pay a per item fee when they need bulk pick up. I would appreciate it if this clarification/correction could be made within the comment thread of the letter, as I have seen done a few times before, so that residents can see the information within the same article."
Overtaxed December 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Cathleen Lewis & other council members - it does not matter! Not all people need your bulk pick up. Some people will not use it in their entire lives! If you still don't understand what this simple statement means, you should resign from the municipal council.
Max R December 10, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Michael, thanks for the clarification. I think that makes it even worse. What it means is that the whole program is subsidized by the taxpayer and NOT the resident using the service. However Council portrays the issue, let's make one thing 100% crystal clear: This is a $400,000 "revenue" grab that does not require a public vote or referendum. Simply 3 "ayes" on Dec 18 will carry the ordinance.


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