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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.

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 , 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?

  199 (86%)

  • The council should charge residents a fee for collection with an ability to opt out?

  12 (5%)

  • The council should stop providing trash collection and require residents to contract on their own?

  18 (7%)

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.

Double Trouble April 26, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Again, citizens are making an uneducated decision to vote to cut the police department. The police chief has done a horrific job communicating with the community and seems to only be in touch with the Slackwoods. When I was a kid i remember the police chief of my town being involved in every community event and everyone knew him by face and name. This chief seems to be almost nonexistent to the community. I agree with the thought of cutting from the top. Save the young cops and their bottom grade salaries. I also recommend any department that is facing layoffs or serious cuts should be represented by a staff member of that department to give a non management perspective on how the cuts will affect the department and community. Let's be smart with this and make the least amount of cuts to accomplish the goal.
Chief Wahoo April 26, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Still doesn't get to the systemtic problem. Cops cost way too much for their total package per cop. Cut their cost per cop in half and you can hire many more that are needed and still save money. No cop is worth 100000+ a year. Time to wake up to that reality
John April 26, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Not all of the officers make 100,000. If you look around Mercer County, Lawrence officers make less than officers in most of the other towns. Every department in this municipality has already been cut to the bone and salary contracts are in place. A deal is a deal. Every labor union in Lawrence made concessions even before concessions were called upon and with new laws, higher medical and pension contributions are in place. That means all township employees HAVE taken a pay cut. The best that can be done salary wise is to consider offering early retirements to employees who make max pay and impose lower salaries for new employees. It is time for you, Chief Wahoo to wake up and realize this and perhaps you can start injecting your ideas to your own town of Brick or that area. If "cops" as you say aren't worth it, then look into completely redesigning labor contracts for all new employees. Much to your despair, no one, even in this economy will work for free. Police and other government employees worked for half of what they make when everything around cost half the price. Government salaries keep pace with the price of everything else. If you chose to work in private business, then you took a risk for the sake of a less restrictive lifestyle and in some cases higher salaries. You made your choice where to work, now you must accept that risk.
Jake April 26, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Another ingenious idea by Chief Wahoo (sarcasm). Let's offer a completely non-competitive salary to those who are responsible for protecting the community. Cut benefits in half!!!???? Were you drinking when you conjured up this notion. It's obvious you're just a bitter person...maybe you wanted to be a cop and never made, I don't know, but to believe cutting the package in half in reasonable and even plausible tells me you're a simpleton. Some major city unions in this country in recent contract negotiations went the route of significantly selling out the future recruits when backed into a corner by officials and what happened...the number of applicants significantly dropped and of those that did apply there was a significant loss of quality (people with arrest records and very questionable backgrounds). So yes let's cut the package in half and entrust this occupation to those individuals lacking the credentials and qualitative traits necessary for this job. Should police be asking for raises or increased benefits in light of recent hard times? Generally speaking, no. But wake up to reality... 100k in NJ, NY, CT, and other high cost of living states is not a ridiculous salary if you want quality personnel who can live (and are required to live) in the area/state where they work.
Joe Friday April 26, 2012 at 03:49 PM
When the NYPD cut their starting salary to 26K in 2008, they could not find quality recruits to work for them. They had to raise the starting salary to 41K to attract quality applicants. Several of the officers hired at the old pay scale turned out to be rotten apples. You get what you pay for is the bottom line. We have excellent police officers here in Lawrence and their compensation package is on par with other municipalities in the county. They are not the highest paid cops in the county nor the lowest paid. All township employees took a 0% pay raise in 2010 and begun contributing to medical care before the 1.5% contribution was mandatory. All municipal workers had their pension contributions increased last year, Police and Fire by 1.5% to 10% of their pay and all other state, county, and municipal workers by 1%. All of the labor contracts in the township expire at the end of this year. Beginning in 2013, all employees of the township will be forced to make additional contributions to pay for their medical insurance. Depending on how much an employee makes, the contribution amount can be as high as 35% of the premium. Each year the State Health Benefits Plan has risen an average of 12% in premiums. The additional monies paid by the employees will lessen the total cost of healthcare premiums the township pays. In short municipal employees in Lawrence and all over the state are already doing their part to lower taxes.
John April 26, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Yes Jake, wahoo is exactly is as his name suggests. I have to agree that with new contracts, the only option will be to lower wages for new employees but not a 50% cut. That would not bring in what we Lawrence residents want. Remember, officers have awesome responsibilities and we do not want budget rate people making life altering decisions. Wahoo needs to do more research and thinking before he posts.
Double Trouble April 26, 2012 at 04:16 PM
How about we give the walking trail a break for bit? We are talking layoffs and cuts so lets not offend the taxpayers with another cent on this pet project.
Jake April 26, 2012 at 04:23 PM
And realize that the number of cops with higher education is significantly higher than a generation ago. So again, how do you expect to recruit and retain talent without competitive wages...half of the current package my friend is NOT competitive for college graduates and others with relative qualifications for a largely thankless job that requires sound intelligence, dealing with constant stress, being away from family during holidays/special events due to volatile work schedules, etc. And it's all generally relative...NJ (100k), cheaper states like Florida 80k... It's usually the people who are bitter or jealous that make such Wahoo-like contentions. No one was saying anything when personnel numbers were higher and the governor was not attacking public sector. Many people are unoriginal and merely jump on the band wagon because it's currently fashionable and convenient. Remember only 7% of the township's residents voted "No." The other 93% was comprised of the "Yes" and those that did not care enough either way to come out to vote...so lets not take this vote out of context. If it was that big of an issue to pay $200+ dollars more a year to maintain current status, many more voters would have turned out at the polls.
Chief Wahoo April 26, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Pure Rubbish.....
Chief Wahoo April 26, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Remember only 3% of the townships residents voted "yes". The other 97% was comprised of the "No" and those that did care enough either way to come out to vote.... See anyone can make numbers work in their argument....
Sarah Simon April 26, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I think we need to have the ball rolling and have the Township Manager investigated just like Hamilton Did.
John April 26, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I think the manager would welcome an investigation. Why would he, because he has done nothing but do his best to financially maintain the town. I would bet you will find no wrongdoing with the manager. I would and will stand behind the manager in his overall job performance. He works for council, he is not independent. I beg any critics of the manager to come up with truthful facts that he has not done his job properly. Facts that can be pointed at him. He formulates budgets based on department managers and approval of council. The manager has been if nothing else, frugal which is what everyone has wanted.Quit blaming the manager when it is others who are to blame.
Lville Rob April 26, 2012 at 06:21 PM
John, I couldn't agree more! Well said!!!
no clue April 26, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Let's do what Hamilton just did and bag these guys just like the did to Bencivengo. I am sure there are some unknown things going on in Lawrence Township too.
Patrick April 27, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I'd pay them 150k year, and teacher the same. Why do we live in a country that values making money on other peoples backs, yet demean those that make us a better people. I don't get it, never will. Romney is offering this, “I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.” The problem is his version of success. There is no place for social workers, police, fire fighters, teachers in that plan. Because it is based on what you bring home, not what you provide to your country. There is a problem in this country, and it how we gauge a persons worth. We now seem to have the collitive desire of Gordon Gekko, greed is good.
Lville Rob April 27, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Joe, you have a few inaccuracies in this post. First, the contracts run through 2014. Second, the non-uniformed employees are paying just 3 percent of premium, which, on a family policy amounts to less than $600 a year. That's less than a senior on a fixed income pays for Medicare Part B. Next year it jumps all the way to 3.25 percent of premium (not 35 percent!). Big deal, when the average private sector employee in this part of the country pays 25 percent of the premium of employer-provided health insurance. Public employees make more and get better benefits at far less cost than the taxpayers who pay for their generous salary and benefit packages. They aren't even close to doing their part to keep spending in line.
Lville Rob April 27, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Correction to my post above - the contracts run until 2014, not through 2014.
Patrick April 28, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Wahoo.. your numbers are insanely wrong.
iManPod April 28, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I am really surprised by all of thecomments and votes to cut. The reason is that unless you work for the police or road department how could you really make a good decision of where cuts can be made? Like it or not the two departments most voted for cuts are the two departments that have already been cut the most. Parks are being mowed half the amount of times as past years. Weed wacking is essentially non existent on township properties. The police are down to bare minimum. Just about everyday the are a few officers on overtime because each shift is at minimum staffing. It is rumored that supervisor overtime was in excess of $160,000 last year in the police department and that is not counting officer overtime. Public works has no minimum staffing level. If someone doesn't show up it's usually not a matter of safety. If a car flips over on rt 1 at rush hour there needs to be enough officers to safely direct traffic and render aid. There is also the rest of the town that needs to be attended to during such an accident. Unless you really have knowledge about how these two departments operate it is unfair to suggest cutting. I trust that council and the manager will work to make the necessary changes to the budget without taking in all of this banter.
Chief Wahoo April 28, 2012 at 02:44 PM
thats why there needs to be a cut in their COST, not in their numbers.......they make/cost too much......that is the problem ! you can have 10 cops @ 100,000 OR 20 cops @ $50,000....simple math
Jake April 28, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I'd also like to comment on the rash of posters that criticize the town for not coming up with additional sources of revenue like the cell tower, the hospital, Walmart, etc. The citizens are largely to blame also...many people started to whine and cry like babies when these prospects were contemplated..."NOT IN MY BACKYARD!!" Walmart will bring "those people" into my town...the detox center will bring crazed drug addicts and criminals onto my street...I can see a tower from my window. Well you know what people, you had a chance to fight to be proponents of the former revenue generators and you failed. Now when the town needs help balancing the budget you have the nerve to bash the council and manager for dropping the ball. This is not to exonerate council for not acting because they could have obviously neglected the sentiment of the opponents, but the point is that many people expect the elected body to abide by everything they want, BUT ONLY WHEN IT'S CONVENIENT FOR THEM!! West Windsor now has the Walmart and reaping the benefits...and the town did not go down the tubes based on certain negative perceptions of the clientele...if offenses occur they have a quality police force that handles business...and they too make 100k. And I don't mean to imply that everyone here advocating for additional revenue sources is a hypocrite...but I'm sure my point is taken.
iManPod April 28, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Jake no need for flashy nicknames and sarcasm as everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do agree with you Jake in that competitive pay should attract a better pool of candidates. It also cuts down on the chance of corruption of any type (not that I think that is a problem here) and helps keep a professional mindset for the employees servicing the town. Now, we all know that society has put the $100,000 salary as a benchmark threshold between a good salary and an excellent salary. If you make $100,000+ society looks for justification for public employees to be paid "that kind of money". People choose their respective professions for a reason. Some for pay, some for benefits, some for stability, some for glamore, some for security, etc. My point is that you can't punish the public employees for this situation. The town agreed to contracts, pay, benefits, sick time payouts, etc. There has not been a labor agreement in Lawrence Townsjip that has gone to arbitration in 20+ years. That means all aspects of the contracts have been agreed upon by each union and the township. So if this is the fact why is it that now the employees are to be punished by cuts and Layoffs?
Jake April 28, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Chief Wahoo: I'm really hoping you truly don't believe offering 50k for top pay to an officer is an intelligent decision and you are just saying this to frustrate people; however, if this truly is your belief, I'm saddened by your ignorance and truly feel sorry for you. Once could easily make more than 50k as a bartender/waiter in a popular or high-end restaurant. You need to read a book on ANYTHING and expand your knowledge; at this point, you should do yourself a favor and stop posting because no one is taking you seriously. I think most intelligent people understand the consequences of not providing competitive salaries to officers in this state. If the cost of living was lower then I could sympathize with a relatively lower compensation package. If Chief Wacky Wahoo's world became a reality in Lawrence, I surely would sell my property and advise those close to me to also move out.
Richard April 30, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Lville Bob, you have an inaccuracy also....Medicare premium is $1100.00 a year. OUt of pocket cost to Seniors and, disabled. You chose to prove a point by quoting only part of the coverage. You must have part A and, part B. And also, this is not an entitlement program if there is a premium and, these taxes were taken out of my paycheck every week all my working years.
Lville Rob April 30, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Richard - not sure I get your point. Medicare Part B premium is $99 a month. That's just under $1,200 a year. That's about twice what the non-uniformed township employee premium share is for a family policy. So how is it inaccurate to say that $600 is less than $1,200?
Blueline May 01, 2012 at 01:32 PM
L'ville Rob, check the facts. The percentages are on a step basis escalating over a 6 year span and those who make over $100k WILL be paying 35%.
Lville Rob May 01, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Blueline, you're talking about the state law; I'm talking about the contracts the township negotiated with the non-uniformed public sector employees. Those contracts supersede the state law as long as they are in effect.
2big kp May 03, 2012 at 12:55 AM
What about next year and the year after etc, etc. Same sh#t Get in line with the times we can not sustain 125 thousand a year 20 yr service and out. period."
2big kp May 03, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Chief wahoo is right on point, Jake u r out of touch and in with the good old boys u make 50 k seem like peanuts, i know trenton cops who would jump at 50k in rosey lawrence twp.
Jake May 03, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Trenton cops make around 80k at top pay you imbecile. No one with quality credentials would jump at 50k for top pay. Maybe someone like you who has no skills (evident by your spelling ability in other posts) would jump on that. Most general secretaries with a few years on make at least that...I'm not trying to put them down, but comparing job requirements with pay it's clear certain jobs command higher salaries. I can't even think of any local, city, county, state or federal law enforcement agency in this country that tops out at 50k. So I guess according to "2bigkp" the entire country and it's leaders are out of touch. Another joke of a person.

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