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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

Stinki Garbaage April 16, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Here's a soild solution in seven words = Spend less than you are taking in When you forecast lower "revenues" you adjust your expenses
Stinki Garbaage April 16, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Find out the truth at ThisGarbageStinks.com
Sky Dive King April 16, 2012 at 01:27 AM
I gave a "viable suggestion" that makes sense. Two executive level salaries by people who can retire and not be laid off. They collect pensions and nobody loses. I am not a "usual commentator" and I am not a municipal employee. I don't consider myself a fool either. Name calling and angry verbiage on your part Mr. John has the bitter arrow pointing to you. Debating the issue with different views is healthy and our right as Americans. Get over it!
Linda April 16, 2012 at 06:41 AM
John, what department are you with? As Winston Churchhill said, "There is no such thing as a good tax". I, myself would like to keep some of my own money. I am tired of having my money extorted from me so that I may help to give someone else a nice retirement package. I had to worry about my own and I thought I had. I have to pay for all of my health benefits and I am tired of paying for someone else's, whether it be a govm't employee or the uninsured illegal. I am sure Mr. Krawczun can afford to take a vacation, but I can't anymore because of this insane spending. It is simple, if you don't have it, don't spend it. Same goes for the greedy teacher's unions. This kids could go to private schools for this kind of money. I would say with this economy this is definitely not the time to be raising taxes. If Krawczun can't balance a buget he should be fired!
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Max, your truth is that over five years public service workers have had about a $640 dollar a year raise. and with givebacks, like health and pension, they actually make less then they did in take home pay FIVE years ago. And as I have commented previously, if you cut 2.2 million out of the Township budget, the effects are not just a reduced police force and public services, its on the value of our homes. and your assertion that you just lower corporate taxes to attract new business, also fails. Chain stores require a certain demographic to open. and high crime is a factor. Then when property values drop, do does tax revenue and you get in a downward spiral. and South Lawrence and further becomes Trenton.
Ima X. Zawsted April 16, 2012 at 12:34 PM
grill master said: "I don't believe in cost of living increases, that's BS. Pay increases should be on merit. If you do a good job, you get a raise. If you stink at your job, you get nothing or fired. Pretty simple, don't you think?" If I work just as hard and just as well as I did last year, but this year you pay me with dollars that are worth less, then you are shorting me. That's just as simple, isn't it? Actually, nothing is simple. Except in the comments section of the Patch.
John April 16, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Linda, I could not agree with you more. I cringe at tax time every year. Subsidizing others higher education, cable, telephone, medical and other benefits for those that do not or never have contributed to society and for those who are not even here legally. I do not get mad at most government employees as they are paid to do a job and with that comes benefits. Everyone has had a choice or opportunity to take the path of working in either the private or public sector. Those that chose to work in the private fields did so with capitalistic feelings that one could become successful and earn a decent living. Along with that, business goes up and down and salary and benefits are not guaranteed. One may have previously made a very high salary but the chance was always there that it could end. That was the risk of working in the private sector, the risk anyone there knew and was willing to take. Those who chose to work for government knew their incomes would remain steady and benefits were guaranteed. Hey, a deal is a deal. That's what contracts are for and many private folks have employment contracts as well. It depends on your choice of career in the private sector. If you don't have a contract then you willingly chose a field that did not come with one. The chance to become wealthy in employment with big business was and still is there. Again, it is a chance or a risk. For the criticism of my lack spaces after periods, it was the only way to fit it all into 1500 words or less.
Kep April 16, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Neither voting option is going to feel good. But voting NO will only be more financially painful for most of us and will not change anything. Voting NO does not put an end to tax increases. It just compels this Council to charge us the equivalent (or more) in mandatory user fees that we cannot write off as taxes. Council will still get what they want, and we will pay even more. It's a crappy deal and a false choice. Believe me, I share the frustration! Voting YES now and then voting in a council that is clear about cutting or stabilizing taxes (yes, it does happen) is the answer.
Let's Dance April 16, 2012 at 01:38 PM
there is a Word document on thisgarbagestinks.com under the "Compounding Growth" tab that shows how a yes vote will actually cost more each year because of the dramatic increase to the base. VOTE NO!
Naomi Mat April 16, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Tom Eldridge would be a great township business manager. He is a wizard with the numbers but he always explain everything in terms we "non-numbers" people can understand. And he has so much compassion for the troubles that people are going through. He sees and understands that the residents can't afford to keep paying more and more taxes. He searches hard to find the ways to make cuts but still provide a great education for our children.
Sarah Simon April 16, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Please inform all seniors to come out and VOTE NO . I am Passing the word around and telling them what Lawrence has in store for the furture Years. I am willing to pickup Seniors who do not have rides to vote NO
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Yes, and how much do you think private trash collection will go up in the same period. There is also a graph on that web site showing incorrectly how wages have gone up over a 5 year period, when in fact take home pay is down. So you can point to a website that is littered with errors, or you can face the fact that Council has placed us in a very difficult position. and we need to be adults. Do you want a protest vote which will hurt the majority of township residents, or do you want to keep the same level of services and tax benefits that you presently have. And not be beholden to a a non elected private trash hauler to dictate price to us. I wonder how many of the NO's actually voted in the last election. Less then 6000 out of over 17,000 or about 30% voted last fall. And yet you have them bitching about the next time the elected party can be deposed. Maybe the other party should have thought about running more then one real candidate.
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Why? it would mean more out of their pocket. Are you explaining that? that a no vote is a protest vote... and how nice of you to provide rides to people who support your protest vote. I'll pick you up it you vote for more money out of your fixed income. And don't forget to pay that new paper bill from the trash hauler, or your house might get auctioned off.
Stinki Garbaage April 16, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Patrick, nothing on that site talks to take home pay. 2012 Municipal Budget: Salary and Wages: $14,813215 (Section 8(B), Sheet 17) 2011 Municipal Budget: Salary and Wages: $14,094,895 (Section 8(B), Sheet 17) Difference: $721,000 And we're told they are being proactive with "headcount" Decide for yourself. Read the budget. The go vote. Stinki
Stinki Garbaage April 16, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Let's be clear: A NO vote is not a protest vote. A NO vote is only step 1. Step 2 is going to Town Hall Wednesday night, and showing up at 6 PM, 1/2 hour before council starts. Please, if you have the foresight to vote NO tomorrow, don't forget to go to Town Hall on Wednesday night and let's start working on the solution.
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 03:21 PM
yes... and I've responded to this before... a 5% raise over FIVE years, even with reduced head count amounts to about 640 bucks for the average township salary. Factor in the givebacks on health and pension a workers take-home is less... so maybe you need to put that on your site. it you want to be honest, and not fool people to think that township workers are greedy. ohh any your chart, how much do you think the price of the cost of a private hauler will go up in 5 years... my guess is a lot more then the increases on your chart. the price of trash hauling has sharply risen as landfills fill up, and hauling is longer... meaning higher transportation costs... and who do you think will shoulder that cost? right US. It is a protest vote for almost every township resident... and a higher cost. don't be fooled by the angry mob of public service haters...
Stinki Garbaage April 16, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Step 3: Tell council to stay within the budget like 544 other municipalities in NJ have been able to do AND collect our Garbage AND produce to the residents within 15 days a viable plan which shows REAL reduction in spending (not draconian, just REAL) That should not be so hard
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 03:26 PM
and what are you going to do at council after an election, moan? if you vote no its an official election result. It would take another referendum to undo... and that is if you can get the signatures to force it. so yes LET'S BE CLEAR a no vote is like shooting yourself in the foot... higher trash fee that is not tax deductible, and a fee that could shoot up.
Ima X. Zawsted April 16, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I thought pay was determined by market forces. If the employer won't pay a competitive enough salary for the function required, the employer gets a lousy or unqualified employee or the position can't be filled. It has nothing to do the number employees supervised. I can probably get a supervisor for ten thousand slaves to dig holes cheaper than a supervisor for a hospital emergency room staffed by a few dozen medical professionals, or a handful of architects or engineers or computer programmers. But if I do a stellar job for grill master this year, I'll have to quit next year when inflation hits and I can't work any harder, because his competitor will hire me at the new current rate.
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 04:30 PM
think you had that opportunity already.. and I'd love for you to list just a few cuts you'd make that do not violate contracts in place to get 2.2 million. cause it isn't 'hard' or anything. The budget is on the front page of the township webpage... I hear a lot of moaning, and after the fact plans that run in the face of democracy, but haven't heard one real cut you'd make.. and BTW the sick days are contractual, best look down the list. BTW If you've been reading Patch long, I have previously posted ideas to raise income. Like grant money, both federal and corporate. Back when this was first announced to the public for review. i too am upset that the way this vote was placed to us as not up or down... but now its big boy time. time to select between the choice on the ballot. Not what isn't. It is like in 2008 saying I don't like Obama or McCain or anyone else... So I'm going to vote for McCain and then petition his removal. It is NOT how it works. and you keep expanding your ignorance post by post, I just hope that people actually look at what they are voting for or against. If you vote no, and no wins you will be paying for trash pick up. This isn't like trying to put a child to bed, and you'll get ice cream if you cry. You will get private trash pick up which you will have to pay separately from your tax bill. Just like your sewer, and just like swear, it can go up and will at a market rate, with no help from commercial taxes. don't protest vote. vote Yes
Chief Wahoo April 16, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Vote NO .... or you will one day wake up homeless because of property tax theft.....it must end NOW
Sarah Simon April 16, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Patrick, You must work for the township and your anger at the posting shows you are only think about yourself. You need to wake up and smell the roses.I think there are more NO's and you can not stand it.
grill master April 16, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Ima - Well when you work in the real world and you don't get a raise because there just isn't enough money, even though you busted your hump and did excellent work....guess what? I can't just go gouge the customers (read: taxpayers) for more money. When I see cops go home for lunch in their squad car and public works employees use a dump truck to hitch a ride home...yeah, it kinda pisses me off that I'm paying for it. Everyone's money is worth less than it was last year, so what's your point?
Patrick April 16, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Sarah, no. I work in Manhattan for a very large media company. And No people like Max and yourself are only thinking about themselves. I am thinking about those very seniors you wanna drive to the polls. Those that don't live in half a million dollar homes, that have a fixed income. That can't afford to have trash fees go up every year. Those whose homes' value is dropping by the day. My anger as you put it, is that there is ignorance and disinformation being put out there. And if you had been on these posts going back to the first announcement of the budget, you would also know my anger is at the council. This should have been a straight up or down vote. I want to press council to go after more grants, go after the fake non profits, then I want them to create a 10 year plan to level taxes. That is what I want.
grill master April 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
So then Patrick, you must also make a very large salary since you can afford the monthly parking fees and train fare to go into Manhattan every day. I know it's expensive..been there, done that. I took a lesser paying job to stay closer to home, and no Lawrence isn't a commuter hub. Don't confuse Lawrence with Princeton. People here don't have as much money as they do there. So is it OK for those same seniors that you are so concerned for to pay increasingly more in taxes every year? That garbage bill pales in comparison to the $3000 to $4000 tax bill each quarter.
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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