Lawrence Township’s appeal to non-profit organizations for voluntary contributions in lieu of taxes has netted a second donation, Township Manager Richard Krawczun announced last week.
“We have received a second donation from our solicitation letter for voluntary contributions from tax-exempt organizations,” Krawczun told council members during the Sept. 18 Lawrence Township Council meeting. “The Islamic Circle of Mercer County has contributed a voluntary contribution of $1,250.”
The Islamic Circle, which owns property in the 300 block of Lawrence Station Road, sent in the donation at the end of August, Krawczun said.
Earlier in August, the from SERV Behavioral Health System, which operates a group home on Darrah Lane.
The idea of approaching tax-exempt groups for a payment in lieu of taxes was discussed at the June 6 council meeting.
While some of the groups that received the township letter already make voluntary annual donations, the letter specifically urged these groups to consider a donation equal to 25 percent of what their municipal tax liability would be.
In a news release issued on Aug. 1, Krawczun explained the reasoning behind the appeal:
Tax exempt organizations, excluding government owned properties, located in Lawrence Township, account for $287,584,000 in assessed value for which no real estate taxes are collected. The amount that assessment would generate for just municipal real estate tax revenue is $2,500,000, which is greater than the budget gap that Lawrence faced in 2012.
Lawrence Township has been confronting many budgetary challenges. Some of those challenges are dramatic reductions in state aid, declines of miscellaneous revenues and less available surplus as budget revenue due to tax appeals. Since only 2010 Lawrence Township has lost $160,287,000 in ratables due to tax appeals. The township is responsible for the full refund of all successful appeals including the full portion of county and school taxes. In response to these challenges, staff has been reduced from 212 employees in 2008 to 182 employees in 2012, outstanding debt has been refinanced, fees raised and capital spending reduced.
The Township Council has pointed out that the township has tightened its belt and residents have shouldered the burden of higher taxes. Now the tax exempt organizations are being asked to consider providing a voluntary contribution to support municipal services. The council has asked that any contributions be received before Oct. 31 in order to facilitate the preparation of the 2013 municipal budget.
"The Lawrence Township municipal government is responsible for a wide range of services, public safety, public health, maintenance of roads, buildings, parks and community development operations,” Mayor Jim Kownacki said in that Aug. 1 news release. “Residents, businesses and visitors all benefit from these services, as do the tax exempt property owners within our community."