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2013 Municipal Budget Problem: What to Do?

Lawrence Township Manager Richard Krawczun during the most recent township council meeting offered a “recap” of the potential cost-cutting and revenue-increasing proposals that have so far been discussed to solve the township's budget cap overage p

With the township still needing to cut more than $700,000 from its 2013 municipal budget in order to comply with the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap and time running out to make a decision on how best to do that, Lawrence Township Manager Richard Krawczun during the , offered a “recap” of the potential cost-cutting and revenue-increasing proposals that have been discussed so far.

Krawczun also spoke at length about a new proposal whereby the township could possibly generate as much as $400,000 per year by charging each residential property owner in town a “flat fee” of $55 for the pickup of bulk trash items like furniture and old appliances.

“My conversation on the 2013 budget this evening is more of a recap than it is too much further discussion. I thought that it would be helpful because we’re getting down to some possible deadlines, depending on the decisions that need to be made. I thought it would be helpful to kind of take a look at where we started back in July and where we are now; what things have been done, what things remain open. And the council can consider them accordingly,” Krawczun said.

During his talk, Krawczun reiterated that, by law, any savings that could result from the proposed privatization of emergency dispatch and ambulance services would reduce the overall amount to be raised through taxation but cannot be applied to reducing the specific tax levy cap overage.

The next township council meeting takes place .

(Krawczun’s talk about the 2013 budget begins at the 1:10 mark of the Sept. 18 Audio Part 3 file in the media box above.)

Permits, Brush Collection and Recreation

Krawczun reminded council members that they had already, at their Sept. 4 meeting, adopted an ordinance increasing certain inspection fees charged by the township, an action which Krawczun estimated will raise about $30,000 in additional revenue.

He also spoke about two proposals on which council had yet to take action.

The first, as explained by Krawczun at the Sept. 4 council meeting, could see the township generate an additional $20,000 or more in revenue if it was to start charging for zoning permits.

The other proposal involves cuts to the township’s brush collection schedule. Those changes, while only saving about $10,000, would free up a considerable amount of “man hours” that would allow public works department employees to focus on other needed tasks, according to Krawczun.

He also reminded council there had been talk about possibly reorganizing the recreation department and ending recreational offerings. At the Aug. 21 council meeting, Krawczun explained that eliminating all recreational programs but maintaining services for senior citizens and limited funding for special events such as the Memorial Day parade would save the township only $60,000 because previously-collected revue generated by program participation fees and field rentals would be lost.

Additional Layoffs

In July Krawczun advised council that one potential solution to the budget problem was to . At that time, the tax levy cap overage was closer to $1 million.

But at the Sept. 18 meeting Krawczun noted that the overage subsequently dropped to the current amount of about $725,000 as a result, primarily, of the transfer of four Lawrence Township police officers to Hamilton Township in late August and the retirement of another officer. Two of the officers who transferred had been set to be laid off with other municipal employees on Aug. 31; the other two were among the nine township workers included in the 2013 layoff proposal discussed in July.

Krawczun, on Sept. 18, further indicated that additional municipal positions have unexpectedly become vacant and suggested that, in lieu of some of the proposed layoffs, some of those positions not be filled.

He did not, however, specify exactly how many layoffs would then be needed.   

“Due to life circumstances in a couple of these cases, there will be some openings that we haven’t filled, vacancies that we haven’t put new employees in,” he told council. “One is in the department of public works. [Another is] a civilian person in the police department. There is a person who advised us this week of her pending retirement and she will be leaving. We would like to try to have this position go from fulltime to part-time. There was a person who was laid off effective on Aug. 31 but had retired previously. We had anticipated that person continuing in their position. They went from fulltime to part-time. And they decided to retire.”

Krawczun also noted that there could be “a reduction in the appropriation for per diem firefighters.” Currently the township hires volunteer firefighters to help staff the township’s daytime “duty crew” when one of the four fulltime firefighters are off. Volunteer firefighters are also currently being hired on a per diem basis, Monday through Friday, to fill two other fire engine driver positions that had been vacant pending the results of a state Civil Service test but which were then eliminated as part of the township layoff plan that took effect on Aug. 31.

Trash

Also still on the table for council’s consideration, Krawczun said, is a proposal he put forth on July 17 whereby municipal government involvement – and related expenses – in garbage collection could be completely eliminated in favor of a system whereby residents would be responsible for securing contracts with their own individual trash haulers.  

“The other proposal that was mentioned was the elimination of trash collection… That sill remains an open matter,” he said.

Bulk Pickup Fee

Krawczun concluded his talk about the 2013 tax levy cap overage problem by discussing his bulk trash pickup fee proposal.

By charging a $55 annual fee per “residential location,” the township could generate an additional $400,000 more in revenue, he said.

“The advantages for the flat fee are there are a tremendous savings in administrative costs – there would be no need for establishing a system where individual residents would have to come in and buy a sticker or some other way to pay for that pickup and have proof of that payment at their household,” Krawczun explained. “Another advantage of the flat fee is it would, basically, remain seamless, aside from the fee, the current collection system… You would be able to, just like you do now…you have a couch, you put it out; you have a large item, you put it out…

“The disadvantage is that some residents are going to pay this fee and not necessarily use the service because they may not have any bulk items or metal items to put out,” he conceded.

Under a “sticker program” for bulk pickup, only those people using the service would actually pay for it. But such a program would generate administrative costs for the township because a system would have to be created to issue stickers and enforce compliance with the program, he said. There would also be more restrictions on what could and could not be put out, he said.

 “The sticker system is going to require additional enforcement because what’s going to occur is that if someone’s not aware that they need the sticker or if they didn’t buy enough stickers because they decided to put out more items than they originally had planned, we’re going to have a situation where we’re going to have a lot of trash on the streets…” he said. “Now we’re going to have a situation where this trash, this bulk, could end up being in front of someone’s house and not be returned to their residence…

“The other problem you’re going to have is you’re going to have illegal dumping because somebody’s going to say, ‘You know what, I’m not going to pay $25 to get dishwasher taken away from the curb. What I’m going to do is throw it in the back of my car and one morning, early on my way to work, I’m going to throw it on the side of the road.’ You’re going to have more illegal dumping,” he said.

A sampling of three trash vendors in the area revealed that bulk trash pickup fees vary by vendor, with one offering a flat $35 pickup fee regardless of the item, while another’s charges depended on the type of item - $11 for a chair, $25 for a couch and $50 for a piece of exercise equipment, Krawczun said.

Here are some excerpts from Krawczun’s talk about the bulk trash pickup fee:

“Last meeting I talked about bulk collection and metal collection. Right now, Lawrence Township currently provides residents with the collection of metal, or what we also call white goods – appliances, air conditioners, dishwashers or other metal-type items. A resident would call for a pickup, the pickup gets scheduled, and then the crew goes out and collects that on Monday. In addition we have spoken about in the past, and I don’t know if it was with this current sitting council, but we have spoke about in the past fees for bulk collection.

“Right now our bulk collection is included with curbside trash collection, at no additional charge. The weight of those collections goes into our overall tonnage, where we pay a fee to Central Jersey Waste, for pickup at the curb, and it’s included in the tonnage for what we pay as a tipping fee to the Mercer County Improvement Authority. We have internally spoken about this idea, and we’re going to go over what we think some of the advantages and disadvantages are.

“What we are suggesting, in lieu of charging for trash, at this time keeping trash collection in the budget, one alternative may be to create a fee for bulk collection but charge the fee to all the residential units. We are suggesting fee of $55 per residential location that would generate, if you do the math, a little more than $400,000, but we wouldn’t collect 100 percent of the amount due. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of a flat fee for metal and bulk pickup?

“The advantages for the flat fee are there are a tremendous savings in administrative costs – there would be no need for establishing a system where individual residents would have to come in and buy a sticker or some other way to pay for that pickup and have proof of that payment at their household. A lot of municipalities use this sticker program where you buy a sticker for each item or a flat fee for a number of items. When the hauler comes by, they see the sticker and they know to collect your trash. But you’ll see there are also some problems with that as we go on.

“Another advantage of the flat fee is it would, basically, remain seamless, aside from the fee, the current collection system. You would put your bulk out. You wouldn’t have to set up a schedule. You would not have any administrative compliance as the resident. You would be able to, just like you do now…you have a couch, you put it out; you have a large item, you put it out. You have a refrigerator, you’re going to call and it’s going to get picked up. All of that would continue.

“The disadvantage is that some residents are going to pay this fee and not necessarily use the service because they may not have any bulk items or metal items to put out. But we think there are some trade-offs to that consideration.

“A sticker fee – one of the advantages distinctly is you pay for what you use – if you put out a couch, you pay for the couch; if you put out a rocker, you pay for the rocker; you’re only paying for what you actually use. But some of the disadvantages are the purchase of the sticker will prolong that process, meaning that, you know, it’s trash day, it’s Tuesday, I’ve been meaning to put this chair out, [but] I can’t put it at the curb because I now have to go through the process to get that sticker, either online or go to town hall, because I physically need that.

“Again, the sticker system is going to require additional enforcement because what’s going to occur is that if someone’s not aware that they need the sticker or if they didn’t buy enough stickers because they decided to put out more items than they originally had planned, we’re going to have a situation where we’re going to have a lot of trash on the streets. People are going to put things out. It’s the same problem we have with brush. People put the brush out and it’s left on the roadway much earlier than the scheduled pickup.

“Now we’re going to have a situation where this trash, this bulk, could end up being in front of someone’s house and not be returned to their residence. Why? ‘I had somebody assist me carrying it down,’ or ‘I‘m an elderly person and my family member or neighbor helped me put it down to the street and I can’t get it off the street.’ So you’re going to have that problem…

“There are still costs to the resident – all these administrative costs and enforcement. The sticker system will have more restrictions. Residents [will need to be] much more compliant. Right now there is a lot of latitude in what we allow residents to put out at the curb.

“The other problem you’re going to have is you’re going to have illegal dumping because somebody’s going to say, ‘You know what, I’m not going to pay $25 to get dishwasher taken away from the curb. What I’m going to do is throw it in the back of my car and one morning, early on my way to work, I’m going to throw it on the side of the road.’ You’re going to have more illegal dumping.”

 

For Municipal Budget Background, See:

  • Sept. 27: “Twp. Ratables Take $7.8 Million Hit from Tax Appeals”
  • Sept. 26: “”
  • Sept. 20: “Lawrence Council Considers Outside Bids for Emergency Dispatch”
  • Sept. 11: “Contract Awarded After Revaluation Funding Approved
  • Sept. 11: “Compromise Being Eyed in Public Participation Debate”
  • Sept. 7: “”
  • Sept. 4: “2013 Budget Gap to Again be Discussed by Council”
  • Aug. 29: “Public Participation Hot Topic at Twp. Council Meetings”
  • Aug. 27: “Lawrence Twp. Says Goodbye to Four Police Officers”
  • Aug. 23: “”
  • Aug. 23: “”
  • Aug. 20: “Lawrence Cops Seeking Transfers to New Department”
  • Aug. 2: “Council Sends Out Appeal to Tax-Exempt Groups”
  • July 20: “”
  • July 18: “”
  • June 21: “Cuts to Township Brush Collection Schedule Proposed”
  • June 11: “Township to Seek 'Voluntary Contributions' from Tax-Exempt Organizations”
  • May 24: ""
  • May 24: "Letter to the Editor: 'Day of Reckoning' for Lawrence"
  • May 18: “Letters to the Editor: Police Chief Should Retire”
  • May 16: “Township Council Moves Forward With Layoff Plan”
  • May 14: “Letter to the Editor: ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship”
  • May 2: “Patch Readers: No Cuts to Police”
  • May 2: “Township Council to Decide Budget Changes by May 15”
  • April 25: “Balancing Lawrence Township’s Budget”
  • April 20: “Help the Council Balance the Budget”
  • April 20: “Council Gets an Earful in Wake of Referendum's Defeat”
  • April 18: ""
  • April 16: “Governor Weighs in on Municipal Tax Referendum”
  • April 16: “Sample Ballot for Tuesday’s Election Contains Error”
  • April 13: “Letter to the Editor: Resident Opposed to Tax Hike Urges Council to 'Go Back to Drawing Board'”
  • April 12: “Municipal Tax Referendum Forum to be Held Tonight”
  • April 11: “Letter to the Editor: Township Manager Explains 'Need' for Tax Referendum's Approval”
  • April 10: "Letter to the Editor: Municipal Tax Referendum is 'Best Option to Preserve Services With the Least Cost'"
  • April 2: "Residents Grill Township Officials on Tax Referendum"
  • March 28: “”
  • March 26: “”
  • March 26: “Last Chance to Register to Vote for School Board & Tax Referendum”
  • March 20: “Township Manager Answers Tax Referendum Questions”
  • March 14: “Trash ‘User Fee’ Would Be Mandatory If Tax Referendum Is Voted Down”
  • March 8: “Usage Rate for Sewer Bill to Increase 15 Percent”
  • Feb. 23: “”
  • Feb. 9: “”
  • Jan. 18: “”

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Stinki Garbaage October 02, 2012 at 10:10 AM
How about eliminating Longevity Pay for all employees? That's 400K per year. And seriously, look at the section on Recreation. It says that if we eliminated everything but Senior programs, we'd save ONLY $60,000 because the bulk of the other programs are funded by participation fees. So the question is this. If the recreation program for everything but Seniors is funded by participation fees, why aren't we seriously looking at the other side of the equation? Why on earth do we need to pay the Recreation Director $125,000 per year, plus longevity pay, plus free car, when we are flat broke, and the parents pay the participation fees and volunteer for coaches? Why do they need to threaten to take my garbage collection away while they just continue to spend our tax money so frivolously on outdated, overly generous pay, benefits, and perks?
Naomi Mat October 02, 2012 at 11:00 AM
Sometimes I wonder about the council. Ever since the budget cap increase vote failed it seems like they are trying to say, "See! You should have listened to us. Now we have to cut all of these services." Instead of looking for ways to trim the fat, the council just cuts out whole areas. $125K plus perks for a recreation director? What does he really do, considering the parents pay a fee for their kids to play sports in town and the parents are volunteer coaches. And why do I have to subsidize someone else's trash habit? I don't begrudge anyone the right to throw out bulk items, but why should I have to pay for it through a flat fee? It needs to be an individual fee. Figure out how to make it happen, councilmen and councilwoman, that's your job.
KBL October 02, 2012 at 12:04 PM
In 15 years of living here I don't think I've ever thrown out a bulk item. And now they want me to pay a fee for something I never used. Most people when they buy a new appliance the store that delivers the appliance takes the old one for you. Right? And I know other towns that use the sticker program and I don't see trash all over the street and illegal dumping all over the side of the road. Why not try the sticker program and if the town is becoming messy you can always change it again.
Richard October 02, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I agree ! Council & Krawczun just don't get it or, they are trying to hoodwink us. What part of "trim the fat" do they not understand? I bet there are no other recreation directors in this country making over $125,000 a year...Better yet, how many townships in this country even have a recreation dept. with paid employees? Why do they deserve a free car ? This is infuriating !
Joe Russo October 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
A flat fee for large items is just plain wrong. Now, for revenue generation, I have always thought that our Recycle Center could be developed to sell retail products to our citizens. Law & Garden, Organics, bagged items. We love the Recycle Center. It's good for the community. Lot's of considerations of course, but it could work.
Chief Wahoo October 02, 2012 at 04:30 PM
the walls are closing in on Dick......soon you will all finally see, Dick has no clothes !
IMHO October 02, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I don't think that Krawczun and the Council even read the Lawrence Patch. Otherwise the shameless goons would have resigned by now. The Lawrence Council mafia has become so thick skinned they consider themselves "untouchables" and continue to threaten the township citizens with unwanted fees & charges. Seriously how do all these people make $100K+ without doing their job? In the corporate world these morons would not earn more than $50K and I'm sure they would have got fired by now for consistently failing to deliver. Is there nothing we citizens can do to fire Krawczun and the Council or at the least bind their compensation to their performance? I have attended the meetings & don't feel like going there any more because these idiots treat us citizens like dirt. This is a democracy but they make me feel totally at their mercy.
Chief Wahoo October 02, 2012 at 05:31 PM
yes there is.....PROPERTY TAX REVOLT
SHSB October 02, 2012 at 07:27 PM
I'd like to know what percentage of Township residents use the Senior Center. Council refuses to touch any of the Senior programs. I am presuming that the seniors have become a protected class because Council is concerned about losing senior votes should they cut senior programs. But right now, council is losing everyone else's vote instead. They are catering to the (small) percentage of residents who are seniors instead of listening to all the residents. Fire service, police dept., EMS, dispatch, trash pickup--these benefit ALL township residents. Yet these are the services being cut or being considered for cuts. Meanwhile, senior programs, that benefit a small segment of the population, cannot be touched. Why is that? Rec and the Senior Center are "nice to haves", but they certainly are not "need to haves." Why the hell is council cutting "needs" before cutting things that are nice but not absolutely necessary??
John October 02, 2012 at 07:36 PM
There is a reason why you aren't in charge and are just another person complaining on website. YOU KNOW NOTHING. My question is, what happens when we cut directors and have nobody running these departments. You will complain that there aren't people in the offices or there isn't a parade or fireworks. Get over yourself, learn some facts and stop being ignorant; That or move out because you aren't going to be happy either way. I hear there are some nice places open in Trenton, you wont have to pay for trash there.
2big kp October 02, 2012 at 09:00 PM
cut the salaries, cut the salaries, cut the salaries kraw, are you seeing this? Can you see that people are so poor bulk garbage doesnt last at the curb for more than a few hours if not minutes because they collect this stuff for daily survival, to put food on the table, do you know what thats like Kraw? How about double dippers in the emergency management dept get rid of them, and cut your salary back to what your worth.
grill master October 03, 2012 at 01:18 PM
So if we pay the bulk trash fee, does that mean we can get rid of the bulk trash that is town council and manager?? Does anyone even use the bulk pick up service from the township? As said above, if you put something out that can be sold for scrap metal, it's normally gone in hours if not minutes. So what are we going to pay $55 a year for?? To pay Mr. KROOKZUN'S inflated salary? It's time to put him in the dumpster. Take a long hard look at what Wahoo said above. Tax revolt is the only way you will get to these clowns. Otherwise, as long as we keep paying, they will keep taking.
Let's Dance October 04, 2012 at 03:22 AM
It frustrates me that so many people can make these great argruments on The Patch yet there was only one person who spoke out against an annual fee for bulk pickup at the Council meeting. You have a voice, use it. It worked when the voters defeated a 17% property tax hike, it can work again. The next Council meeting is on Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m. Tell them you oppose a bulk garbage fee.

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