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.
Max Ramos, Woodlane Road