.

Letter to the Editor: Township Manager Explains 'Need' for Tax Referendum's Approval

This letter, written by Lawrence Township Manager Richard Krawczun, was mailed to all Lawrence Township residents this week.

Dear Lawrence Township Residents:

I would like to take a few minutes from your busy schedule to briefly explain the need for approval of a referendum to exceed the state imposed limit on raising the municipal taxes. The limit or "cap" mandates that the aggregate amount raised from taxes cannot exceed two percent (2%) above the prior year. The limit is not on the tax rate.

The first question you must have is how did this budgetary problem happen? Significant sources of revenue have been on the decline. Notable is a $1,000,000 reduction in state aid and lower amounts collected from real estate taxes which were the result of tax appeals. Due to tax appeals, taxable values have declined $160,287,000 in just the past three years which means $1,426,000 in lost real estate tax revenue. Finally, budget revenue from surplus is no longer available at previous levels. Surplus has decreased for two reasons: surplus was impacted by tax appeal refunds and financial conditions have prevented the regeneration of surplus funds for future use. These losses have necessitated increasing other revenues to fully balance the budget without negatively impacting services.

Please note that tax appeal refunds are paid by the municipal government for municipal, school and county taxes that were previously received.

Most likely your next question is what has the Township been doing about this budget issue? There have been proactive steps implemented to mitigate the impact of these negative fiscal conditions. Over the past five years the municipal work force has been reduced 10 percent, including the police department. Outstanding debt has been refinanced, electric costs have decreased through a public bidding process and phone service has been competitively bid. Capital expenditures and departmental operating budgets have been reduced or frozen where possible. Various user fees have been increased. The Township currently shares over 35 services with other municipalities and private organizations. The Lawrence Township municipal budget has and will continue to be prepared with balancing levels of service against limiting the amount of taxes paid by property owners.

Prior to approving the referendum, the Administration and Council reviewed the budget in order to see if it was possible to cut the $2.25 million needed to balance the budget. However, in order to achieve such savings significant cuts, including the reduction of police officers, would have to be made. Those deep cuts would negatively impact all Township residents. After reviewing the options the referendum question was approved.

What happens now? Township voters will be presented with a referendum question on April 17. You and members of your household will be offered the opportunity to approve or disapprove the Lawrence Township municipal government exceeding the state imposed two percent (2%) limit on the amount to be raised by taxes. Certainly no one wants to raise taxes, but it is important to consider the impact to residents if the referendum does not pass.

A "yes” vote will authorize the Lawrence Township Council to adopt the 2012 budget that was introduced and published that provided for an increase in the tax levy over the allowable property tax levy cap authorized by State law at the rate of increase of $2,275,000.

A "no" vote means that the Lawrence Township Council must amend through appropriation reduction or allowable non-property tax revenue increases in order to adopt the 2012 budget within the tax levy increase set forth by law.

In plain language, the referendum results will dictate how the costs of curbside trash collection will be paid. Both options will keep the same level of curbside trash collection services. Approval will increase the tax rate by a tax deductible .09 to pay for the service. Disapproval will result in implementation of a non-tax deductible user fee estimated to be $336 annually or $28 per month.

I hope this information is helpful and that it will assist you in your consideration of the referendum question on the amount of revenue raised by Lawrence Township. More detailed information may be found on our website at www.lawrencetwp.com or please join the Lawrence Township Council for a discussion forum on Thursday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m. in the Community Room in the Lawrence Police Department Headquarters.

Respectfully,

Richard Krawczun, Municipal Manager

 

Solid Waste Collection Estimates

Referendum to Exceed Levy Cap by .09

(Tax Deductible)

Effects on Various Assessment levels

Assessment

Annual Cost

Monthly Cost

150,000.00

135.00

11.25

161,292.08 (average)

145.16

12.10

200,000.00

180.00

15.00

250,000.00

225.00

18.75

300,000.00

270.00

22.50

 

Residential Solid Waste User Fee

(Not Tax Deductible)

Annual Cost per Individual Residential Pickup

336.00

Monthly Cost per Individual Residential Pickup

28.00

 

See Also:

  • April 10: ""
  • April 2: ""
  • March 28: “”
  • March 26: “”
  • March 26: “
  • March 20: “”
  • March 14: “”
  • March 8: “”
  • Feb. 23: “”
  • Feb. 9: “”
  • Jan. 18: “”
Landon Donovan April 11, 2012 at 10:44 AM
Lay off police officers, privatize ambulance service and cut recreation? Are you for real? Time for you to go and find a real job in private industry. No you won't make $165k per year. Perhaps more like $65k. And if you don't come in under budget you wil get fired. The ambulance service is already privatized and there is not much to the recreation program in Lawrence compared to surrounding communities. Leave the police alone. Find another solution but no tax increase and leave my garbage alone. It's the only thing keeping me sane. Stop bulleying the tax payers. We have enough problems already!!
Max R April 11, 2012 at 11:52 AM
What about increasing Municipal Wages 5.2% increase in ONE YEAR? That's the AVERAGE increase in the "Wages and Salary" line items in the 2012 Municipal Budget. Yes, while our council is asking to increase taxes, the Wages we are paying our Municipal Employees are increasing by over $690,000 over 2011. And we are only increasing headcount by ONE PART TIME PLUMBER. (Good thing we didn't hire a full time plumber, huh?) Vote "No" and make these folks do their job! Represent the residents, NOT the government employees
beverly April 11, 2012 at 01:51 PM
you have 65 police officers that more than half just stand at colonial bowling lanes, you have one female officer that speeds down a residential street to go see her family member during working hours and spend more than 1 hour there each day, so you can look into that, municipal employs can take a pay cut or laid off 1/2 of them do nothing,look into administration payroll which is absolutely disgusting and why pay council members the pay they get, that's only the beginning.
Joe Russo April 11, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Hi Rich, Thank you for your letter. I notice the contract awards for Attornies, Zoning Bd, Planning Bd., etc.from the Lawrence Township website: $18,000, 40,000, 100,000, + -, not exactly but for illustration. Obviously any municipality needs ZB, PB representation. In a search for dollars, can we, have we, sought competitive bids. Thanks, Joe
Lawrencevillegal April 11, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I am requesting that the township voters vote against this tax increase. My family lives in Mercer County. We are working to support our family financially by buying our own home, saving for retirement, saving for our children's education, etc. … and by supporting our community and country by paying taxes. We have had several financially challenging years recently. Accordingly, we have had to take steps in every item of our budget to manage cost. There is only one item in our budget where we need your help …. Taxes! By far, taxes are the #1 line item in our household budget. In my last pay check, tax withholding was 49%! With what’s left over, we have to pay some of the highest property taxes in America. On top of that, we pay 7% state sales tax for just about anything we purchase. In addition, we pay taxes in electric bills, water bills, sewer bills, phone bills, cable bills. There are toll fees and special taxes applied to gasoline when we drive. We pay taxes on much of what we drink and eat … then we often pay taxes again when we discharge those foods and drink by using the toilet. We pay taxes coming and going! Mr. Krawczun, the problem is not revenues but a history of exorbitant spending! I believe that we spend over $4M per year alone on interest payments for debt. Unfortunately, with regards to our household budget, it is beyond our authority to reduce our spending on taxes … that’s why we need your help. Thank you for your support.
Lawrencevillegal April 11, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Mr. Krawczun, where is the detail of the $21M in discretionary spending? I think that we are being misled. The township management wants to discuss garbage pickup fees while the real wasteful spending is in the other $40M (discretionary and non-discretionary) of spending! The discussion should be about detail of the other $40M. Here are two alternate proposals, 1) Start with an across the board 10% cut of all discretionary spending? We can keep garbage pickup and employees but with a 10% pay cut ... and cut 10% of every other line item as well. 2) Stop the borrowing. The only reason we have a budget issue is because of our $4M+ per year interest payments on debt! The reason the manager is submitting an alternate proposal for garbage fees is to cause a fuss with the citizens of Lawrence Township as a diversionalry tactic to keep us from blaming the actual culprit - bloated government spending.
Mets April 11, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I will vote NO for the referendum. I am not in a financial crisis personally but have no respect for the way this situation is being spun and manipulated. There are ways to cut. Let's be responsible mr Krawczun. There is no need for layoffs or this referendum. Be honest
Chief Wahoo April 11, 2012 at 06:17 PM
1. a bullet to the heart 2. a bullet to the temple Those are the 2 choices given to you by an overpaid public official......why are the people allowing 1 person who has given you no other choices ( CUT, CUT, CUT could be a wonderful choice if given) ......are we to believe there is not ONE PERSON anywhere smarter than this person with better solutions.....STOP BEING LEMMINGS AND FOLLOWING THE SAME PEOPLE WHO CAUSED THE PROBLEMS !!!!! VOTE NO
Shel April 11, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I will be voting NO as well. The Township Manager needs to justify his big fat salary and explain to us exactly WHY he is making that kind of money when the township is in financial ruins. I don't know about anyone else, but as a tax payer, I want an explanation. A pay cut is in order because if I wasn't able to balance my books at work, I'd be unemployed.
Naomi Mat April 11, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I really don't understand how we got into this mess. Any household has to budget. Why can't these clowns understand that if there is less money coming in, they need to spend less? Instead, they keep coming back for more and raise taxes. Oh yes, I will be voting NO. And anyone thinking about voting YES, please think about the long-term results. True that it might be cheaper for you this year. Just remember that they are going to come at you again next year with more tax increases, but you'll be starting at an even higher base. I will remember this well come next town council election. I will do my part to ensure that we get some new faces on the council.
Max R April 12, 2012 at 01:40 AM
By the way, who paid for that letter to go to every resident in the township via US Mail? Isn't that a conflict of interest to send a letter extorting our residents to increase their wages $690,000 or 5.2% this year? Who paid for that letter to be sent to every resident via US Mail? Conflict of interest? I'd like to send a rebuttal letter, but can't afford 26,000 stamps!
Patrick April 12, 2012 at 01:52 AM
thing is, if you vote no, the majority will pay more taxes and trash, and it will give a tax break for the highly assessed homes. I understand the issue, but they set it up where we pay no matter what. If council had any guts, they'd have a real vote cuts in services or an increase. Let the voters decide. This we know better then you what you want is a joke. I'm voting yes, only because the trash fee would be greater then the tax increase, an it will no longer come out of my mortgage payment. and last thing I want to do is go shopping for a trash pick up service. They will soon learn you never threaten trash pick up... it gets you voted out or fired.
Max R April 12, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Patrick, I hear what you're saying about voting the council out for their ineffective performance. But don't you think that voting "Yes" legitimizes them and also adds to the tax base that will forever be added upon?
Patrick April 13, 2012 at 02:51 AM
you think once you start paying for a mandated trash pick up charge, it will go away? and when I say mandated, I mean you HAVE to buy it. Can't go in with a few neighbors, can't let the old lady next store add her one bag a week to yours, no no no. You'll have to pay $350 a year on top of your taxes, and it won't come out of your escrow from your mortgage, it will come out of your pocket , like the sewer and water, which is another joke...
Max R April 13, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Yes, I agree. So call their bluff, vote "No" and show up at council next Wednesday and tell all five of them to demand a reduction in spending and to reconsider forking over $800,000 of our money to the municipal employees who they are supposedly reducing headcount. Don't forget that only two of them are up for re-election in 2013 and three of them in 2015. That is a long time to allow them to continue to rubber stamp $800,000 salary increases while they continue to tell us they are reducing headcount. Call their bluff! Vote no!
Patrick April 13, 2012 at 11:02 AM
Max, not sure at this point since the vote is already in action, I received my sample ballot yesterday, if I want to pay more just to make a point. Thing is my home is assessed less then 200k, so a no vote will mean I pay more for trash. And remember assessment and retail home value are very different. A no vote will actually hurt the people who need to keep their money the most. If you want to be heard or make a point, November is the time for that,
Chief Wahoo April 13, 2012 at 02:55 PM
you are sadly mistaken......and very selfish as well
Patrick April 13, 2012 at 02:59 PM
This isn't Brick. and if its selfish to want to pay less out of pocket, then so be it. I'd rather spend that money on maintaining MY home, then a mandated trash bill.
Stinki Garbaage April 17, 2012 at 10:47 AM
http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2012/04/two_boroughs_brace_for_upcomin.html Check out what Hopewell and Pennington pay in municipal taxes. We pay more than both of those municipalities combined! Pennington hasn't had a tax increase since 2008! Now THAT's proactive management
Stinki Garbaage April 19, 2012 at 10:29 AM
The fight is still not over. After a 2 to 1 vote and 100% unanimous anger from the residents last night, the council is STILL debating whether to move forward with the extortion. Mayor Kownacki said last night after all the residents gave them a piece of their mind that he hears us, but he still thinks the user fee is the best option. That's who's leading you. That's your mayor! Call Mayor Kownacki today and ask him what he's waiting for. Tell him to take the garbage nonsense off the table today! 844-7000 Ask for Mayor Kownacki. Tell him to take this off the table today. The vote was 2 to 1. Yesterday at council was 100% unanimous from the resdients. Don't take my garbage away. My Kownacki, what are you waiting for? ThisGarbageStinks.com - Tell your friends to flood the township until this nonsense is over. We're 75% of the way there. ThisGarbageStinks.com - until it's off the table. Keep fighting!

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something