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Township Gets Taste of Voters' Wrath

Lawrence municipal budget question, school board tally were among the very few to get nixed by voters in New Jersey this year.

In the end, Lawrence Township voters made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with an 17.8 percent municipal tax hike, and they did so by .

By a 2-1 margin, voters nixed a 9-cent municipal tax rate increase -- which was on top of an approved 5-cent hike -- that the township sought to balance the 2012 municipal budget without further cutting staff or services.

The Lawrence school budget also went down, though by a relatively narrow margin, in what "collateral damage."

“Residents of Lawrence Township are concerned over taxation, not just taxes from Lawrence Township municipal government but all levels of government," Lawrence Township Manager Richard Krawczun told Patch after the votes were tallied Tuesday night. "I think there’s justified frustration about the economy, justified frustration about the job market and justified frustration over the poor timing of all of these difficult trends culminating at one time.”

And yet, the Lawrence vote stands out as an outlier when placed within the context of the rest of the state. A Medford tax referendum similar to the one in Lawrence was OK'd and, according to the state School Boards Association, voters approved 90 percent of school budgets (63 of 70) on Tuesday, one of the highest approval percentages in recent memory. Lawrence, , joined 69 other school districts in the state in not moving its election to November. 

The contrast in results between what happened at the state level and what happened in Lawrence makes it clear that what happened on Tuesday was very much a local matter and not necessarily part of a larger anti-tax trend in New Jersey.

Let's be clear, New Jersey residents have not been happy with their tax bills for a while, but their anger -- at least as it is demonstrated by the results of local elections -- seems to have subsided some.

In Lawrence, however, the anger remains palpable. On Monday, for instance, in comments attached to a story and poll on the tax referendum, Patch users expressed their outrage over the vote.

"This makes me sick," said one user. "Every town has had tax appeals and loss of ratables, I guess those towns came up with other solutions like CUTS! You have a Rep Gov telling the residents of these two towns to vote no and a Dem Senate Pres pushing for legislation to end the extortion of imposing new fees. Seems like everybody gets it but our Council."

Another users blamed the township manager and council, saying "there is a reason only 2 out of 566 are voting on a referendum and that reason is INEFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT."

Are they correct? It is true that there are mitigating circumstances, including the large loss of ratables. But there is no dismissing their anger and the people on the council are going to have to listen.

Crocked April 18, 2012 at 10:23 PM
"Ineffective management" wins my vote. Let's vote these clowns out one by one. Hey council you want a decision like you gave the taxpayers? Get rid of Krawczun or get voted out. The decision is yours. How does it feels?
Patrick April 19, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Well, I'm not sure what you can cut besides police. You can't cut the courts, there is that red light camera now and you'll have lots of people wanting to contest... You can't really cut public works, many of these jobs have already been out sourced... You could cut the parks and rec budget, but that doesn't even play for the pick up of snow on a light dusting next winter... You could fire the township manager, and bring in someone who will work for less, but love him or hate him, Krawczun carries a boat load of institutional knowledge. and even if you fire him, you save maybe 60k... so what? And its not just the loss of tax income from property taxes, its over a million in federal grants, like homeland security. Its the state keeping our cash owed to Lawrenceville. Its a state wide system of taxation that allows Trenton to rob Peter to pay Paul. Just look at the recent ARC stories... It has now become clear that Christie lied about costs, and dumped the transit plan to keep gas taxes low... Its a total lack of state aid. and maybe a total lack of creativity from council.... lets not forget this tax jump was over surplus. Surplus they need interest from to pay for stuff from next years budget... The reason this vote was so one sided is easy to figure out... Voters felt bullied. There was no real choice. No up or down... So Council will have to live with that... learn from that... but what can the larger public take from us... the voter is not the enemy, its your wife..

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