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Letter to the Editor: 'Day of Reckoning' for Lawrence

The writer is Lawrence Township resident Amy Davis.

Editor's Note: The following formal statement by township resident Amy Davis was read during the public participation segment of the special (May 23). It is presented here in its entirety as a Letter to the Editor.

The Day of Reckoning is here in Lawrence Township. For years, our governing body has watched revenues decline, dipped more into its surplus, increased taxes and failed to make any substantial cuts in spending. As a result, our town now has a $2.275 million hole to fill in its budget.

The solution the township manager recommended and our elected officials approved was a public question to pass a 17 percent property tax increase, in addition to residents already facing a 15 percent increase in the sewer rate. As if that wasn't shocking enough, part of the increase would go towards funding raises for all municipal employees. To add further insult to injury, the council threatened residents that if the tax increase was defeated, residents would be forced to pay a new $336 annual garbage fee.

Well, the intelligent residents of Lawrenceville called your bluff. The tax increase was not only defeated 2-to-1 but angry residents have appeared at every council meeting since the election and have unanimously spoken against any new user fee being added to the municipal budget. Legislation has also been introduced to prevent your effort to make an end-run around the state's 2 percent cap by creating a new garbage fee.

The state's 2 percent cap was enacted because residents in New Jersey are feed up with paying already high and ever-increasing taxes. You blame the 2 percent cap for your current financial troubles but it's the only thing currently protecting taxpayers from being taxed to death. We know reasonable cuts and sacrifices can be made. We have all been doing it for many years in our own homes. Now we demand that our governing body do it. To put it simply, we don't spend what we don't have, so why should you?

The question that should have been presented to voters was "higher taxes or spending cuts" not “higher taxes or an additional garbage fee.” Regardless, the residents of Lawrenceville have given you their answer loud and clear. Make the necessary spending cuts because any increase over the allowable 2 percent cap is more than what we can bear.

Every year, I attend the school district's budget presentation and I am always very impressed with how articulate and connected the superintendant and business administrator are with the residents of Lawrenceville. Their presentation is always very thorough but put in simple terms so the average resident can understand where we've been, where we are and where we want to go. Long term planning and fiscal responsibility are always stressed as a top priority.

This past year at one of the school budget meetings, a parent asked the superintendent and business administrator if they had considered exceeding the 2 percent cap to provide better services. Without a moment's hesitation, they both responded that they did not feel the taxpayers in Lawrenceville could afford to pay more and thus were committed to staying well below the permissible 2 percent cap. They got it and they were right.

In sharp contrast, a few weeks later I attended one of the municipal budget meetings hosted by our township manager with two council members present and the message I received was that the taxpayers have to pay more because the residents don't want less services. Despite my and many others in the audience best efforts to convince them otherwise, they refused to listen. I hope you're listening now and understand that if you fail to generate new revenue and do not increase savings you will be forced to make more cuts. There is no other option.

Despite our recent troubles, we live in a great town and we should continue the conversation by attending future council meetings and having more citizen interaction with our governing body so we can make it an even better, more affordable place to live. I hope our mayor, council and township manager will join us in our efforts to achieve that goal.

Thank you.

- Amy Davis, Lawrence Township resident

no clue May 24, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Commendable effort Amy. Well said.
Chief Wahoo May 24, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Amy Davis for Manager !
Richard May 24, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Amy, You are wonderful.....thank you so much for speaking so eloquently. Please run for something, anything ....you will get our votes !!!
Jane May 24, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Amy, Your is the first fully developed and well conceived critique of what has happen here in Lawrence this spring. I commend you for it. just let me know when you want to begin your campaign for Council because I'm ready to sign on!
Landon Donovan May 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Thanks Amy well written. Township council and the township manager are without a clue when it comes to the state of our local economy. Gone are the days where blue collar workers packed a lunch box and headed off to work. Now most blue collar workers get up each day look out the window and wonder where the next pay check will come from. The time for Lawrence to realize the days of spend, spend, spend are over. We need Police, Fire and EMS but only what the residents can afford. We don't need a senior citizen center, recreation program and and neighborhood center(like the one on egrets crossing road). These should become pay for services programs and not taxpayer burdens. 2013 will be more challenging than 2012 since the surplus will be gone. Maybe a good time to Lawrence to identify where we are and where we are going. Has anyone ever wondered what the average taxpayer receives in benefits from Lawrence Township? For my eight thousand dollars they pick up the trash, clean the street and plow the snow. That's about it. Once in a while a police car will pass by but not much else. No we don't have a park close by and public transportation is 3 miles away. Fireworks on the 4th of July are a thing of the past. I cut my own grass, trim the trees and maintain the sidewalks. Maybe one day the economy will get better but until then we must all make sacrifices.
Jake May 25, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Donovan: Is your total property tax burden 8k per year? If so, you make it sound like you are paying 8k directly to Lawrence Twp. for minimal services...not true. As I assume you're aware as a tax payer, your taxes are broken down into three categories:county, school, and municipal, with the least being paid to municipal. I agree that recreation should be cut ENTIRELY, among other things, especially since these are not critical services as are police, ems and fire. Anybody moving into a town will consider crime rates and quality emergency services before the recreation services. And I'm tired of people implying that the tax increase was going to be 17 percent, as in 17 percent more than what they paid the year prior. It was a 17 percent increase in the RATE, not the total monies to be paid by a homeowner. Do I want any increase...ideally, no. But not at the expense of emergency services which are already bare bones. And I'm also tired of people like Amy Davis saying that the residents have spoken. A FEW loud mouths came out against the trash fee and the council buckled. There are plenty of people in this town that would have been willing to pay the fee or contract their own trash collection service if given that option instead of sacrificing emergency services. Just because people are not outspoken on issue does not mean they are against it, as in the tax increase or trash fee.
Jake May 25, 2012 at 08:16 PM
People who are well versed in local issues and politics I feel assume that everyone is fully aware and educated on what is transpiring within their town. I have personally spoken to a number of people who are completely unaware of what is currently going on, and it's a fallacy to assume that such people would automatically be against a slight tax increase or removal of trash in order to maintain current services, should they be fully educated on the state of local affairs (i.e., the amount of imminent retirements, the fact that Lawrence pays a relative bargain in taxes compared to surrounding higher quality towns, etc.). The voter turnout was small and it seems premature to assume that this small sample definitively represents the sentiments of the entire town. It is the job of the council to not automatically buckle at the cries of a few, but to make sound decisions given the entire context, even if that means upsetting those that are outspoken. Being outspoken does not mean you are correct or are promoting sound decisions. In the meantime, I hope people like Amy Davis are happy when their property values keep declining because the town's real trash collectors who wear blue and gold are dwindling in numbers and we as a town gain the reputation as merely an extension of Trenton.
Chief Wahoo May 25, 2012 at 09:18 PM
2 to 1 ..... Makes all your gibberish you just wasted our time with worthless. 2 to 1 in any vote is a total drubbing and a mandate. Stop spending and cut
Chief Wahoo May 26, 2012 at 03:30 PM
got to love how i seem to have my own fan club.....all the mini detectives, looking up all my old posts , thinking they came up with some golden information.....but all still wondering and pleading for me to reveal who i am....and usually its a public employee , who is just scared and angry that their gravy train has been found out and is ending,......and yet while i get verbally attacked , i never give the posters identity a second thought, dont care to look up where else on Patch they post, none of it matters to me......so looks like i win ......LOL

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