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Letter to the Editor: Resident Opposed to Tax Hike Urges Council to 'Go Back to Drawing Board'

The writer is Lawrence Township resident Max Ramos.

Dear Editor,

This is an open letter to Lawrence residents and Lawrence Council regarding the upcoming referendum.

After reading our and Letters to the Editor from earlier this week, I would like to offer an alternate opinion from an ordinary tax-paying citizen. As background, my wife and I moved to Lawrenceville from New York City 12 years ago, right after getting married but prior to having children. We moved here because it gave us the best of both worlds: An opportunity to raise our future children in a great, safe neighborhood with reasonable taxes and a superior school system, and still be able to commute to New York.

Prior to moving here, we thoroughly researched at least 15 different municipalities with the above criteria, and have never once regretted moving here. We've since had two children who were both born in Princeton Medical Center and both currently attend Lawrence Public Schools, with our youngest just finishing up Kindergarten, and neither of us needs to commute to New York any longer, thank goodness. We've made great friends here that we expect to have for not only our lives, but also those of our children. (Read: We have a lot at stake in this community, and I am sure there are 30,000 other similar stories.)

Now to the point:

  • In 2004, the year we bought our current home, our property taxes were $8,155
  • In 2005, they rose 10.3 percent to $8,996
  • In 2006, they rose 2.6 percent to $9,234
  • In 2007, they rose 4.1 percent to $9,614
  • In 2008, I was lucky enough to join the 5-figure club as my property taxes rose 5.4 percent to $10,133
  • In 2009, they rose 1.6 percent to $10,294
  • In 2010, they rose 5.3 percent to $10,841
  • In 2011, they rose 1.8 percent to $11,039

Now in 2012, they will rise again to either $11,245 (a 1.9 percent increase) if we vote "No" on next Tuesday's referendum or to $11,476 (a 4.0 percent increase) if we vote "Yes" on the referendum.

My question to our Council is this: When does it stop? The issue clearly isn't revenue collection as all of our council members are on the record stating. This township is/will be collecting 40 percent more "Revenue" from me (and you) than they did just 9 short years ago. Do we have 40 percent more residents? 40 percent more roads? 40 percent more schools? I don't think we do.

But what I can clearly see, (as any first-year accounting student could tell you in about five minutes) is unsustainable spending habits and projections. And the unfortunate fact that no one on the council seems to want to face is that one of our largest expenses (if not the largest) is Salaries and Wages, which is projected at just over $14,000,000 in the 2012 Municipal Budget.

Again, my question to the council is this: When does it stop? The 2012 Municipal budget includes an average 5.2 percent wage increase for the Municipal Manager and his 196 other fellow Municipal employees. The line items for Appropriations for Wages and Salary are increasing in net value from $13,357,000 to $14,048,000 in the 2012 budget. That's a total of $690,488 which averages to $3,504 PER Municipal Employee. All this while our Municipal Manager tells us that we increased headcount by one part-time plumber over 2011. Heaven forbid we need a full time plumber!

So here's the bottom line: We either Vote "Yes" next Tuesday for their pay raises OR they stop collecting our Garbage (and they still get their pay raises.) That's Mr. Krawczun's proposal. That's what this referendum is about. And that's what OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS consider "not dismantling the Township."

I will vote "No" next Tuesday, and I urge my fellow residents to do the same. I also urge the council to stand up for the residents and vote "No" as well. I urge the council and the manager to go back to the drawing board, do the work they were elected (and appointed) to do, keep our taxes in line with our DEMANDS (it's our Township, not the Municipal Employees’) and not threaten to stop collecting our garbage.


Regards,

Max Ramos, Woodlane Road

Ima X. Zawsted April 16, 2012 at 09:40 PM
My point was that in the "real world" there is enough money. It's just elsewhere. And in that "real world", people who use company vehicles don't switch vehicles to take their lunch breaks. Their employers don't want them wasting time like that. Only in public service jobs do employees typically have to put up with such nonsense like to satisfy a fickle public. So we have to pay them more to compensate in order to compete with the private sector for employees in the Real World, which is competitive.
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I wish I made big bucks and had a big house. I don't I live in a typical Lawrence split level and have find it difficult to get by since i moved here and everything has gone up... And I'm not so worried about the persons paying 12k to 16k a year. More the more populous south side of Lawrence, where the majority of seniors live. Those very seniors will pay more with a no vote and you know that. I'm voting yes, because when I do my budget month to month, i have nothing going to saving. I haven't taken a real vacation since I moved here. My house is worth less now then when I bought it. Am I angry at the tax increase HELL YES. and I going to make it worse on myself and vote no. umm no.
Curmudgeon April 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM
From the Statehouse Steps: The Democrat on Monday introduced legislation aimed at stopping municipalities from reclassifying certain services, such as trash collection, as user fees. Those fees don’t count against the 2 percent cap under current law, which lawmakers approved in 2010. The previous cap was 4 percent. http://statehousesteps.com/steve-sweeney-wants-to-close-property-tax-loophole/
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Seems a bit late, and not sure once this vote happens if its retroactive. Just shows how the 2%cap was poorly written. Should included this from the get go.
Let's Dance April 16, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I hope it passes soon! There should be no tax increase over the allowable 2% and no back door garbage fee. Do the right thing and stand with your fellow residents to reject both. If the Council is smart enough to hear the message that is being sent loud and clear they will realize they need to cut instead. Let me make it even clearer...no tax or fee or we vote you out. Plain and simple. We need a Council that works for us.

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