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Council to Ponder More Layoffs, Ending Garbage Pickup

The layoff of nine more employees next year - including four police officers - or the elimination of municipal government involvement in trash collection were options discussed as township council got its first look at 2013's projected budget deficit.

Lawrence Township Council members, during their meeting last night (Tuesday, July 17), got a look at the township’s financial future, and what they saw wasn’t pretty.

Township Manager Richard Krawczun and Comptroller Peter Kiriakatis gave a PowerPoint presentation which, using estimated numbers and educated guesses, showed a projected municipal budget shortfall of $932,008 for 2013.

Two ways to address such a budget gap were then discussed: the layoff of nine additional municipal employees during 2013, including four police officers; or the complete elimination of municipal government involvement in garbage collection in favor of a system whereby residents would be responsible for securing their own individual trash haulers.

Neither option was presented as a concrete proposal; they were merely offered by Krawczun to council and the members of the public in attendance to make clear the enormity of the township’s financial situation and the tough choices that lie ahead.    

“I want everyone to understand we’re not bluffing,” Krawczun said. “This is the math.”

At the heart of the problem is the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap and the way that cap is calculated.

As per the cap calculation formula, Krawczun explained, Lawrence Township can increase the amount it raises through taxation in 2013 by $448,995.

But, under the same formula, nearly three quarters of that amount – $334,345.90 – must be allocated toward paying percentages of the township’s pension contributions and health care costs for employees and also the full amount of the reserve for uncollected taxes (a figure based on the amount owed by delinquent taxpayers).

Factoring the remaining $114,649.10 of the allowable tax levy increase against estimated increases in township expenses – such as contractual wages, benefits, pensions, and debt service – results in the revenue deficit of $932,008 for 2013.

“We’ve made some assumptions in this calculation, some of which we have a lot of confidence in because we have the data, others are projections based on historical performance,” Krawczun said.

That projected $932,008 shortfall already takes into account the use of $2.7 million from the township’s surplus fund as a source of revenue to offset taxes in 2013, Krawczun noted.

“That leads us at this juncture to have a conversation on two options,” Krawczun said.

The first option would involve the township laying off nine additional employees in 2013. Four would come from the police department, while the other five would be “non-police.” Krawczun did not identify from what departments the five other job cuts would come, saying, “This is not about creating panic among the employees. It’s to illustrate the problem.”

As part of the township’s efforts to balance this year’s budget, a total of 13 municipal positions – including five in the police department – are being eliminated, and a 14th position is being reduced from full-time to part-time. Most of those layoffs are set to take effect at the end of August.

Should the additional layoffs happen in 2013, they would need to occur in the first week or so of January in order for the township “to get the full effect of the savings. Every pay [period] you go beyond that, the savings are reduced,” Krawczun said.

Going by the projected numbers, those additional nine layoffs would put the 2013 budget about $73,000 under cap, he said.

Krawczun noted that, once this year’s layoffs take effect, the township will have a total of 31 fewer employees than it had in 2008.

“I know this is going to anger some people, but we need to have a frank discussion,” Krawczun said in prefacing his talk about the second option: the elimination of municipal government involvement in trash collection.

Earlier this year, in rejecting a referendum that would have authorized a tax increase in excess of the 2 percent cap, many township voters were also vocal in opposing the other proposed alternative to balancing the 2012 budget: the imposition of a municipal “user fee” to support trash collection.

State government subsequently passed legislation making such “user fees” subject to the tax levy cap, forcing township council to balance this year’s budget by way of the layoffs.  

The trash proposal discussed last night would differ from the one put forth earlier this year because the township would have no involvement at all in garbage collection; it would be up to individual residents to negotiate and sign contracts with the trash hauler of their own choosing.    

“Under current law, if we were to eliminate the service, there would be no cap base adjustment for elimination. I can’t make projections about what the legislature will do, but as of yesterday at 4:30 when we had this conversation, that is where we are,” Krawczun said.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis, Krawczun noted that the township’s current contract with its trash hauler, Central Jersey Waste, expires on Dec. 1, but the township is required to give the company 60 days notice if it intends not to renew.

The elimination of municipal government involvement in trash collection would, again using the projected numbers, put the township $1,569,541 below the cap. That, Krawczun said, could allow the township to rebuild its surplus fund so that money from surplus can be used in future years as a source of budget revenue to prevent tax hikes, counter increases in health benefits and other expenses, or prevent additional layoffs.

“So I wanted to bring this to your attention, not to request an answer this evening. But I think it’s important that we have time to contemplate and think about this because, I think, it puts into focus the challenges of the 2013 budget,” Krawczun told council members. “I hope it puts into focus some of the timing [about] when we need to move forward on some of the decision-making.

“It’s not good news,” he added. “Again, I know there are going to be some people who will say why didn’t you see this coming. We’ve been seeing it coming. That’s why we’re able to have these conversations in the context that we are and not having to make panicked decisions.”

After Krawczun had concluded his presentation, Councilman Greg Puliti asked, “So the reserve for uncollected taxes is included in the cap?”

“Yes, it its entirety,” came Krawczun’s answer.

“So the money we have to put aside for the county and the board of education – which are larger portions than our portion of the tax bill – is included. That just doesn’t make sense,” Puliti responded. “It really just shows that there wasn’t much thought put in this cap. I understand the cap. I understand they want government shrunk. They’re shrinking it. We’re seeing that here in Lawrence Township.”

Councilwoman Lewis, meanwhile, asked about the possibility of layoffs beyond 2013: “If we have the same sort of numbers for 2014 and 2015, what’s to prevent there to be a need for more layoffs moving forward if we were to do layoffs next year? It seems like this will continue to be a problem till we’re shrunk to zero."

“That’s right. You’re right,” Krawczun said. “I think it’s important for everyone to recognize we’re not flush with employees… This problem continues going forward.”

 

For Municipal Budget Background, See:

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  • June 11: “”
  • May 24: ""
  • May 24: ""
  • May 18: “”
  • May 16: “”
  • May 14: “”
  • May 2: “”
  • May 2: “”
  • April 25: “”
  • April 20: “”
  • April 20: “”
  • April 18: ""
  • April 16: “”
  • April 16: “”
  • April 13: “”
  • April 12: “”
  • April 11: “”
  • April 10: ""
  • April 2: ""
  • March 28: “”
  • March 26: “”
  • March 26: “
  • March 20: “”
  • March 14: “”
  • March 8: “”
  • Feb. 23: “”
  • Feb. 9: “”
  • Jan. 18: “”

 

David Smith July 19, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Does salt/wound mean anything to you? Although I do agree his numbers are inflated.
Patrick July 19, 2012 at 04:10 AM
How much do you make a year? is your life at risk when you work? sorry but you make these arguments like you hate police being paid well for risking their lives everyday, and that anyone could do it. 125k is fair.
Patrick July 19, 2012 at 04:14 AM
you may have a point that they don't know where to cut fat, but there is a HUGE problem with the way the state shifts money from program to program without regard to the townships.... Its been going on since Florio... and continues today with Christie. One program is black, you push it to the red to gain your political capital townships and property tax payers be damned.
Patrick July 19, 2012 at 04:15 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/business/10prop.html
Stinki Garbaage July 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM
Josh, go back on vacation. The AVERAGE Lawrence Twp employee makes 79,000. That is a fact that is irrefutable. In fact, the average TWP employee earns more in salary (79,000+) than the average Resident (68,000+) does. Again, a fact backed up by the Wall Street Journal, the Lawrence Twp Municipal Budget, and the US Census. Josh, your humor is borderline ok, but no one takes you seriously. That being said, it's a free country (so far) so keep the idiotic comments coming!
Patrick July 19, 2012 at 10:28 AM
If you look at the salaries per position, there are a few that are bloated. And in the police department, two of them have stepped down. If you look at the salary of a mechanic, a skill that can be translated into the private sector... The ave. is around 65k. That is less then the private sector. It is a nice salary, but hardly one that can be deemed excessive. You also never address loss of services and its impact on the township's image and our property values. If our roads are ill kept, our schools sub par, our parks dirty and unsafe on all levels, then our homes become worth even less in a very soft competitive market.
Stinki Garbaage July 19, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Patrick, for me it's simple. If the Council and the manager cannot address providing our services within the cap, they should be replaced. I don't want dirty parks and ill-kept roads and more than you do. How about we contract park maintenance and not pay their pensions for life. How about we don't pay $400,000 in longevity pay EVERY year. How about we institute a (GASP) pay for performance system? How about we don't jump on the Red-light camera bandwagon just to see the program ripped to shreds by inefficiencies, corruption, and state-wide mis-use? There are many solutions, but the entrenched Council and manager cannot see the outside of the very tiny box they are within. I mean seriously, can you believe they are contemplating eliminating Garbage collection again? Either they are stupid with very poor recollection of what happened just 3 months ago or they MUST think the residents are stupid with no recollection abilities.
Stinki Garbaage July 19, 2012 at 10:55 AM
BTW, none of the many solutions are easy or low hanging fruit. They are very difficult decisions that must be made and will be difficult to plan and execute. But the option of extorting the residents to continue to feed the inefficient machine is no longer an option.
Patrick July 19, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Were you not one of three that was able to look over the books with council? I read your name in the news paper. Thing is most parks are already subcontracted. and frankly the quality of the work has dropped. The red light was a Mercer and DOT choice. Rt 1 is not a township road. and as I said... if you look at jobs that can be compared to the private sector the pay is less... that is why workers get a better retirement deal. Everyone knows that... and no I agree that removing trash collection is just stupid. What I don't hear from council, is ways of raising revenue outside of taxes. There are grants, they should be on the phone with every member of Congress, Senate and Holt looking for grant money.... They should be looking for ways to bring business into the township... looking for corporate grants from local business, and perhaps a tax on those that work here, but live elsewhere. Nothing huge but many townships have a once a year $35 dollar local tax. something creative.
josh hamilton July 19, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Hey Stink Boy. I have same freedom of speech as you do. Get a clue about the average municipal employee. Maybe the cops are making over 80,000 a year and the department heads but thats all. The poor working people in the municipal building in most of the offices are making less than 40,000. Don't spread your preposterous propaganda. You have to be one of the three " NORTH LAWRENCE RESIDENTS" who reviewed the budget. I lived in south Lawrence all my life until I made the best decision of my life to move to paradise (THANKS TO MY HUGE PENSION THAT YOU ARE PAYING FOR) and never once were the "scumbags" from the south lawrence ever consulted about budgetary issues. I find it sickining that you place the safety of the public at such a low level that you keep suggesting laying off more cops. Back in my day, you would've been ostracized for being an idiot and run out of town. You wouldn't have been able to drive down the streets of lawrence. With this being said, I will leave you with a thought that I've said so many times before STINK BOY, when a burglar is in your house and you call 911 and you are crapping your panties, don't expect the ladies and gentlemen in blue to respond as they did in the past. You might be hiding under your bed for 20 Minutes before your HERO'S arrive. THEN YOU WILLRECONSIDER YOUR REDICULOUS THOUGHTS OF CUTTING MORE COPS.
Stinki Garbaage July 19, 2012 at 11:40 AM
I never once thought of, proposed, or backed cutting cops. I support the men in blue 100%. It's Puliti, Kownacki, Lewis, Powers, and Maffei that voted 5-0 to eliminate those jobs. Josh, for the record (and you could look it up right here in the patch) the 3 residents made a list of about 20 recommendations that Ira Marks clearly listed and publicly shared should be addressed before a single person was laid off (police or non-police) Council just said thanks, and then lowered the boom, again 5-0 by Puliti, Kownacki, Lewis, Powers, and Maffei Just facts and no propaganda. Ira's remarks on on the record, and those council members votes are on the record. Just facts. Not bragging about my pension, or drinking umbrella drinks on a cruise. Just laying it out for those that believe in hearing the truth (and facing the truth)
John Street July 19, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Bottom line is to get rid of the do nothing jobs. They are out there and you can start with EMS and OEM. Check the facts that one of them is just hanging there to become police director when the police chief retires. Dig deep and you'll see the connection with RK and Puliti. Thats just the start of things...whoever said it earlier is RIGHT...RK needs to step down. He has lost control of this town and his gamble did'nt pay off it only exposed him for what he is....POWER FREAK.
Stinki Garbaage July 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM
You don't even need to dig deep to get the connection between Puliti and RK. He's publicly elevated him on a pedestal. As if he's doing a fantastic bang up job!
grill master July 19, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I agree with you Patrick, but there has to come a time when things need to evolve. Not just Lawrence but all of the ridiculous amount of municipalities in this state need to figure out other ways to balance their budgets. They can't just keep blaming the state for taking away aid and then gouge the taxpayers for more money.
grill master July 19, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Do this when you are on that cruise: tie a rock to your leg and jump in the ocean.
grill master July 19, 2012 at 01:24 PM
The residents didn't choose to layoff the cops, your buddies on council did. And enough with your pension check nonsense, I doubt it's that big if you are still living in south Lawrence.
E Coach July 19, 2012 at 01:40 PM
i guess Mr. Power has short term memory, When he was mayor a few years back, he stood with Mayor Palmer, to not allow Capital Health to build their hospital in Lawrence. This cause the township to loss all that property taxes from all the doctor offices that would have followed the hospital.
E Coach July 19, 2012 at 02:11 PM
good point, plus what happen to all the money that was budget for snow removal that was not used this past winter. The saving could have been used in this year's budget for snow removal.
Patrick July 19, 2012 at 05:09 PM
wasn't the hospital voted down because of neighbor concerns about traffic? It may be easy to blame the politicians, but we all share the blame with our NIMBY attitudes. The child care clinic on Bus RT1 is another recent prime example... A neighbor worried about traffic, who lives a door down from Rt 1 ruined it, and it still remains vacant, probably to be filled with an other religious tax exempt organization. So before we point fingers, try to the entire issues facing council... i would never want a Walmart on Spruce. That road is already a death trap as it is.. and you need to get Ewing involved in redirecting/improving traffic which I'm sure they'd be happy to do to inprove our tax base.... Lawrenceville School has a golf course that charges for membership... are those dues taxed? that surely isn't a school function for the education of its students... Maybe allow a few more bars/liquior stores in the township, tax revenue... just not sure this is being looked at from both sides of the ledger and then we nit pick over police and other township workers... stop thinking cuts vs tax increases and think growth.
Patrick July 19, 2012 at 05:10 PM
it would be nice if we could remove the vitriol and stick to the points... it just debases anything you say if it is an attack. right?
Greg hgthhgt July 19, 2012 at 06:02 PM
RK and the world's greatest police chief have short sighted vision. RK proposes to lay off more cops to save money. The WGPC nods his head in agreement like a spineless puppy. The next year or so is going to allow for a group of officers to retire brining the staffing levels below the minimum of what is needed to run the police outfit. There have been less then 10 days without overtime since April according to the rumor mill. With layoffs and retirements the overtime will be ridiculous with the officers tired and worn out. Most of the officers facing layoffs are in the process of obtaining other police jobs. When the retirements start kicking in at 3 and 4 at a time the replacements will be a year away with the police academy and training. These layoffs are a quick fix now but will lead to a greater problem in the long run. As the older woman told the chief in the council meeting "stand up for your boys". Stop the political games and do what is right. Remember these words 18 months from now.
Victor July 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
The pension and health care costs must be cut to save jobs-it is time the unions wake up to teh reality or else we will end up like San Bernandino CA
josh hamilton July 19, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Hey Grill Master. Take that yellow hot dog johnnies shirt off and get a clue weiner boy. You and Stinki must be shaving the same weiner together because neither of you make much sense. I don't live in South Lawrence anymore Burger Bits. I live in a paradise that you'll never know about because you don't have the guts to wear the blue uniform that I wore for 25 plus years. I GET MY BIG FAT PENSION CHECK BECAUSE I PUT MY LIFE ON THE LINE EACH AND EVERY DAY FOR THAT TIME. Oh, did I mention that I just came off the beach because I can afford it with my BIG FAT PENSION CHECK Ketchep brain. I support my brothers and sisters in BLUE to the fullest. If they lay off four more, you and Stinki will suffer the consequences along with a lot more Lawrence Towsnhip Residents.
Overtaxed July 20, 2012 at 01:13 AM
I like Scantron's solution: http://wnep.com/2012/06/27/scranton-city-employees-to-make-minimum-wage/ We need minimum wages for Lawrence Twp administrators and $0 paid to the five council members! They failed us and do not deserve more.
josh hamilton July 20, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Hey OverTaxed? Are you sure that you arent overCRACKED. Thats the most obsurd thing that Ive ever heard of. That scranton Mayor or business administrator should be sent to one of those rat trap prisons i've seen on the world' deadliest prisons. This is the first I heard of this but to punish those poor workers who have done nothing but kept the City of Scranton afloat is a crime. Get real OVERCRACKED.....
Richard July 20, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Patrick, nobody dislikes police or firefighters or EMT's !!! We dislike raises during a recession. I believe that township employees should sacrifice alittle as much as the private sector. Don't spin this into something else.
Patrick July 20, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Richard... You clearly have not been following this for the past few years... Net take home pay is down... There have been give backs on medical and pension. and 2% raises don't come close to covering it. So there has and is sacrifice by township workers.
2big kp July 21, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Krawczun needs to step down as does OEM AND EMS persons, prettyman needs to be sued by the township for his arrogance and unlawfull work ethic toward his underlings. Why should we be stuck with his decisions to promote who h e felt like when there were procedures to follow which he didnt. Krawczun you r going to need a larger yard if you extort from the citizens of LT,like the size of a prison yard and I will dump my garbage in your front yard as the money u r stealing from the tax payers of the township should cover the costs of removal.
Loco July 21, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Lets review some quotes from the Matrix report that the township WASTED MONEY on since the report of independant professionals is not being followed; "...no findings of overstaffing by the project team" Page 5 of report "..the township should eliminate the Deputy Chief OR Captain position" "...a new sergeant position should be created to serve as training officer and provide support to the Lieutenant." Savings of $44,000. Page 6 of report "MAINTAIN CURRENT STAFFING LEVELS IN PATROL DIVISION" Page 6 of report "..staffing appropriately in the Detective Bureau" Page 7 "...does not recommend any changes in stafffing levels in Records Section" Page 7 "add two communication operator positions" Page 7 "elimination of these two positions (Deputy Chief and Captain) would REQUIRE the township to authorize a position (sergeant) to take over responsibilities of...." Page 16 "Maintain current staffing level in Patrol" Page 40 See the theme? CURRENT STAFFING LEVELS WERE RECOMMENDED. At the time of the report there were 65 sworn members of the police department. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 there were 70 sworn members, this September there will be 60 sworn members, in 2013 there will be 56 sworn members. That is 14 less sworn members from 2008 to 2013 or almost 12% of the department. That is with higher expectations and more calls in 2012 then 2008. Layoffs over fiscal responsibility is a great idea. There are plenty of positions that are being kept as favors that could be cut.
Richard July 22, 2012 at 02:36 PM
John Street, I agree. Township should not be laying off Police !!! That is a disgrace. This is not Marie Antoinette's France. It is wrong to lay off essential & life saving employees while the top of the food chain is eating cake & champagne.

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