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Patch Readers: No Cuts to Police

Respondents to our poll said the council needs to maintain the police and road departments and cut elsewhere.

Patch users want the Township Council to avoid cutting police, public safety and road services, according to a that ran over the weekend. 

An earlier showed overwhelming support for municipal trash collection.

The most recent poll, which was unscientific, attracted 384 votes and 28 comments.

The budget cuts are necessary because a tax referendum, which sought permission to raise the municipal tax rate 9 cents above the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap, was , with more than 3,700 total votes cast. Township officials said they would make a .

The results of the poll, which asked “What services and programs should the township maintain at all costs?” were:

  • Road department — 33 percent
  • Recreation and youth programs — 1 percent
  • Senior services — 1 percent
  • Police — 51 percent
  • Fire and Rescue services — 9 percent
  • Dispatch — 3 percent
  • Business advocate — 1 percent

Patch users offered a variety of suggestions on how the township should balance the budget going forward. A sampling of these comments follows:

Joe Friday: “We cannot cut emergency services. The police department already has had a 10 percent reduction on personnel since 2008. The EMS service is already overworked and the reality is that they should be running two ambulances during the day and not just one. They rely on mutual aid to supplement the one ambulance they have on duty at all times. The Fire Department does a fine job with limited resources.

Lawrence Township has been in discussions with Ewing and Hopewell for years on a consolidated dispatch center for all three towns. This dispatch center would be based out of the police station here in Lawrence. Lets make this a reality. As it currently stands, a police officer making six figures is routinely pulled off of the road to work as a dispatcher due to the lack of dispatchers in all three towns. A consolidated, central dispatch center for all three towns would allow for the cops in all three towns to stick to working as cops and not dispatch duties. Having several dispatchers making less then half of what a patrol officer makes while ensuring that we have no cops working in dispatch and instead on the road is a win-win for all involved. This makes too much sense and I do not know why it hasn't happened yet. Mercer County already has a consolidated dispatch for fire and EMS and police dispatch should be next. This could easily save each town a few hundred thousand dollars a year while improving dispatch services for all three towns.

Chief Wahoo: “(This) Still doesn't get to the systemic problem. Cops cost way too much for their total package per cop. Cut their cost per cop in half and you can hire many more that are needed and still save money. No cop is worth $100,000-plus a year. Time to wake up to that reality.”

Patrick: “I'd pay them 150K a year, and teachers the same. Why do we live in a country that values making money on other peoples backs, yet demeans those that make us a better people. I don't get it, never will. Romney is offering this, “I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.” The problem is his version of success. There is no place for social workers, police, firefighters or teachers in that plan, because it is based on what you bring home, not what you provide to your country. There is a problem in this country, and it is how we gauge a person’s worth. We now seem to have the collective desire of Gordon Gekko, greed is good.”

Double Trouble: “How about we give the walking trail a break for bit? We are talking layoffs and cuts so lets not offend the taxpayers with another cent on this pet project.”

iManPod: “I am really surprised by all of the comments and votes to cut. The reason is that unless you work for the police or road department how could you really make a good decision of where cuts can be made? Like it or not the two departments most voted for cuts are the two departments that have already been cut the most. Parks are being mowed half the amount of times as past years. Weed wacking is essentially nonexistent on township properties. The police are down to bare minimum. Just about everyday there are a few officers on overtime because each shift is at minimum staffing. Public works has no minimum staffing level. If someone doesn't show up it's usually not a matter of safety. If a car flips over on Route 1 at rush hour there need to be enough officers to safely direct traffic and render aid. There is also the rest of the town that needs to be attended to during such an accident. Unless you really have knowledge about how these two departments operate it is unfair to suggest cutting. I trust that council and the manager will work to make the necessary changes to the budget without taking in all of this banter.

While this poll has closed, we do not want the debate to end. Feel free to keep commenting and offering suggestions.

Victor May 03, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I read the contract left by Joe Friday's link and am astounded at the benefits and costs in the police contract. I have run businesses in the private sector,non profit sector and been an employee in the federalgovernment and never came close to the entitlements for overtime, sick leave (unlimited accumulation) funeral days off. Nor do I think a contract should devote so much to Union benefits . The contractual protections included in a police investigation of a fellow police officer are not afforded to citizens -they should be identical. And it goes on and on. Time to get off the gravy train. Read the link-it will amaze you: http://www.perc.state.nj.us/publicsectorcontracts.nsf/Contracts%20By%20Employer/ACD952BF81C9F524852577D600602B38/$File/Lawrence%20Tp%20and%20FOP%20Lodge%20209%20R&F%202009.pdf?OpenElement
Keep Us Safe May 03, 2012 at 05:50 PM
1 of 3: The penny-wise, pound-foolish mentality of some comments is disturbing. Former councilman Bob Bostock pointed out the #1 priority of local government is to provide for public safety. Rumors are swirling about what council will do. Layoffs and not filling needed positions are possible. Despite what people will admit, the police are operating with a barebones staff to answer a large call volume. Comments about the response to the people selling counterfeit goods at the street fair show how out of touch with reality people are or how they don’t understand the risks involved. Go to the Officer Down website www.odmp.org/ to read about cops getting killed every few days going to “routine” calls and “petty” crimes in sleepy suburban towns like ours. Last summer burglaries in Lawrenceville were through the roof. People demanded action. Now some want to lay cops off. It’s getting warm out. Burglaries may start again. Getting rid of the 2 recruits who started the police academy a few weeks ago (replacing cops who retired) would be foolish, as would other layoffs.
Keep Us Safe May 03, 2012 at 05:51 PM
2 or 3: It would also be foolhardy not to follow through and fill the 2 fire positions that have been staffed with per diems for the last 2 years while civil service tests happened. Volunteer firemen are burned out from answering calls, doing mandatory training and fundraising to stay in business. Many are disgruntled from the lack of support – be it real or perceived – they get from the town. Anyone with a scanner can hear how it often takes 10+ minutes (sometimes 20 at 3 AM) to get enough volunteers to show up to get a fire truck on the road. Add to that the time it takes them to get where they need to be. Yep, many fire calls are false alarms. But alarms sometime turn out to be real emergencies. A fast response can mean the difference between someone living or dying. It’s a game of russian roulette the town is going to lose at some point. It already happened a few years back: a woman was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning during a “routine” alarm. The volunteer system is at a crossroads. Volunteers save the town millions of dollars by providing a free service. The town can either show support by filing the two firemen to help ease the call burden, or they can turn their back and accelerate the decline of the volunteer dept.
Keep Us Safe May 03, 2012 at 05:52 PM
3 of 3: The lack of support from the town sped up the demise of the volunteer rescue squad and led to the need for a 24/7 paid ambulance staff. If you think the trash fee is too much to pay, you won’t want the bigger fire district tax that would be needed to support 24/7 paid firemen. It would be another mistake to fire the town’s ambulance staff and go back to Capital Health. That didn’t work before. It won’t now. A reliable person in the know told me ambulance staff makes a profit. The figures quoted in the town meetings showing a deficit was because a billing error (that has been fixed) meant that a lot of bills never went out. I encourage council to protect us by maintaining our public safety services. Savings can definitely be made in the long-term (personnel buyouts, delaying fire truck or ambulance replacement, new terms negotiated into future contracts, reducing litigation spent on lawsuits, etc.) but don’t jeopardize our future safety by getting rid now of our most valuable asset – our dedicate emergency responders, both present and future.
Joe Friday May 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Victor, All of the items you have mentioned in the police contract are standard across the board in almost all police contracts in New Jersey. Princeton Twp affords their officers 500 hours of sick time a year after so many years of employment. Trenton has unlimited sicktime in their contract. All departments allow for bereavement time in the state. Overtime is governed by federal and state labor laws. The cap on sick time payouts is $22,500 per employee at .50 cents on the dollar up to the cap. Many towns do not have caps and these are the towns you here about taking out emergency loans to pay out sick time and vacation time accrued by employees. Union protections and contractual protections are necessary for all law enforcement officers so that they can do their jobs and not be worried about political influence or offending the wrong person and then being fired without cause like in Right to Work States and Non Union States.
IMHO May 03, 2012 at 06:44 PM
For making cuts, please do NOT look towards the emergency services or programs that help our kids. We need these services to maintain a safe and likable township that we all have known Lawrence to be. I'm not an accountant so I can't understand why the Township Council has voted to give itself a handsome raise when we are all talking about cuts. Can someone please explain to me why was this allowed. Is there any way we can reverse that decision? I know this will not amount to anything in the large scheme of things but atleast the Council has to get the message that they are accountable for the mess and will not be wrongly rewarded. I recommend the Council take help from the Lawrence Board of Education (Tom E & others) to balance the budget. The BoE did a great job with their budget but got voted down due to the mess created by the inefficient Township Council. What a slap in the face of people who do good job!
Over Taxed May 03, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Why doesn't town council take the four newer unmarked Police cars away from the Lieutenants, Captain, Deputy Chief and the Chief? They use them to drive back and forth to work every day. This is a high cost, with the price of the car, the maintaince and fuel. Its not like they are "on call" because they are not. If they were they would get the on call stipend, as per the contract. The thing with the Deputy Chief is that he doesn't even live in Lawrence Twsp., he doesn't even live in Mercer County. and he does an approx. 50 mile round trip each day. That's a lot of fuel at todays prices. Also when he works an overtime job he uses the township car, sits in it with the engine running for hours, while patrolman, doing the same job have to use their own personal cars. If Council uses common sense, we could start saving money today.
Angelo Longo May 03, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Please tell me this is a joke?
Angelo Longo May 03, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I cannot believe what I am reading I cannot believe how many of you want police officers to lose their jobs Do you realize how many people are out of work already? Blaming the police for the mess this twp is in is way off base. If you want to blame someone the blame clearly falls on Town Council. Were they not the ones who said we don’t want a hospital? I hate to beat a dead horse, but if they had built the hospital in Lawrence these problems would have been solved!! The police are way at the bottom of the list of people to blame for this mess. I read in letters that we should take the cars away from the police chief and asst chief and maybe they are right that they shouldn’t have a car to take home, but shouldn’t we first look to take the cars away from the township inspectors, the recreation head. Why do those people need a car, they can use their own cars!! We are yelling to cut the police officers salaries, but no one is yelling to cut the school superintendent’s salary or a teacher’s salary.Yes a good teacher is worth the high salary, but look at where our schools rank in the state, it’s not as high as you may think. Maybe tenure should be removed, so that bad teachers may be given their walking papers. $100K for a cop may be high, I don’t know what the scale is for police officers, but they put their life on the line every day Has any one from this town gone to the Lawrenceville School and said listen times are tough we need X amount of dollars more.
Lorraine May 04, 2012 at 12:24 AM
I have been saying for a long time and no listens, Lawrenceville Prep School and Rider University need to pay their fair share. Neither of them do. Rider owns private houses that they pay no taxes on and so does the prep school. If they were made to pay taxes on those properties it would beef up the income greatly. They are not public schools and should be given no special breaks. But the township doesn't listen.
Overtaxed May 04, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Not only the school superintendent's salary should be cut, but the same should be done to the school business manager, personnel director, many other departmental directors, curriculum supervisors and managers. Lawrence school system is an average one. For example, the 2011 Lawrence High School graduation rate was 8th in Mercer Co (among 16 high schools, including 2 Mercer County Vocational ones). Check for yourself: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/05/nj_high_school_graduation_rate_1.html Other scores/grades (for example mandated by state) are also not so great (http://www.ltps.org). Those who say that the school system is excellent are very far from the truth!
Fed up May 04, 2012 at 01:37 AM
The Chief and Deputy Chief should retire immediately. This would save the town almost half a million dollars and save several layoffs. Do the right thing and retire. If you have your 25 years in you can retire and collect your pension and allow someone else to work and support their family. Stop being so damn greedy. Retire NOW
Scrappy May 04, 2012 at 03:29 AM
A million dollar fire truck? Is it a necessity?
justsaying May 04, 2012 at 05:53 AM
When you need it? Yes. But to the average tax-payer, when they don't need it? NO. No one really gets it until they need it and its not there. I hope that answers your question to the fullest, also this goes for the police and EMS.
grill master May 04, 2012 at 12:35 PM
"Township Manager Richard Krawczun offering council members a list of suggested cuts that would reduce the amount to be raised through school taxes by $700,549. Those cuts included the $375,000 already identified by school officials, as well as other actions like using $100,000 from the district’s capital reserve surplus fund and another $100,000 from the district’s capital maintenance reserve surplus fund as revenue. School officials were particularly concerned about council’s suggestion the district dip into the two surplus funds. “Our reserves impact our ability to maintain the stability of our tax levy,” Eldridge said during the meeting. “We don’t want to take money out of either our capital reserve or our maintenance reserve. That, to us, is counter to the concept of a fiscally sound district. It undermines our strategic plan to control the tax levy, not just this year, but over years forward,” school board President Laura Waters said to council." Read the above pasted from the school budget article - This is the reason the town is in this mess. Thanks to Richard "Use up the Surplus Fund" Krawczun, the town's surplus has been dwindling the last few years, now he wants more taxes to re-fund it. Is this all he knows how to do? His is the salary that needs to be cut or better yet eliminated. He is not fit for the job, For what he is getting paid, finding a much better replacement can't be that difficult.
Clarity May 04, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Are you saying that the town will get rid of the Chief and have no one running the police? If you are going to have a Chief, some one will be put in that job. There is no savings if you put someone in those positions or similar positions. If the Chief leaves, you will save a layoff but you are not saving a half a million dollars.
Clarity May 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Captain, I thought the police no longer had a Captain? Isn't it a good thing that the town does not have to pay for them to be on call? I do know that other police departments pay their high ranking officers to be on call. Maybe someone can clear this up but I would think that these higher ups would get alot of calls when something is going on in town. This seems to be the way it is done in other towns. Anyone know for sure?
Bob Bostock May 04, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Lorraine - I thought it might interest you to know that in September 2010 I authored a resolution calling on the legislature to pass a bill that would make private school provided faculty housing taxable, just like any other piece of property. The Council passed my resolution unanimously on September 21, 2010. The NJ League of Municipalities endorsed my resolution and made a part of their legislative agenda for 2011. Unfortunately, our representatives in the legislature did not see fit to do anything about this. If Rider and the Lawrenceville School did pay taxes on their faculty provided housing, it would provide more than $400,000 a year in additional revenue.
Joe Friday May 04, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Clarity, The only way to eliminate the Chief position would be for the town to hire a public safety director like many other places in NJ are doing. Trenton and Hightstown are two places that have one here in Mercer County. This position is a non sworn executive who is generally a retired Chief or higher ranking officer who makes significantly less money then a Sworn Chief does. Most directors make around 100K as opposed to 160K for the Chief here. Being retired police officers, most times the towns hiring them do not have to provide benefits as the director is already receiving them from retirement. If this is the route the township is taking, it is conceivable that they could save 100K by getting rid of the chief position and hiring a director when Benefits, Pension, and Pay are taken into account. This is why alot of town do this, in addition to have more control over management as opposed to a Chief.
Cowboy May 04, 2012 at 05:07 PM
This can be solved very easily. The time has come for the Lawrenceville school, in cluding their numerous private residences (somehow classified as learning centers and are somehow exempt from taxes) they own thorughout the township, also Notre Dame and Rider University to start paying their share of property taxes. It is a no brainer! What's fair is fair.This would solve everything.
NoBargainBasement May 04, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I agree that it may be time for a fresh face in the manager's office. For a town that I have heard claim to be so fiscally responsible over the years, it doesn't make any sense to be in this situation. And I now it's just the nature of the beast, but I'm so tired of these politicians buckling under the pressure of the outcry of a mere few. In this situation, the simplest, cost effective and efficient thing to do would be to cut the municipal trash collection. I think many were upset about the trash fee because it was presented poorly and in a blackmail manner due to one provider forced on them and the inability to opt out. Just cut the service and let people choose their collector if that's the issue or just stand your ground as a governing body and impose the fee. I just looked at the private trash collection bill of someone who lives in another very desirable town in the area (and generally higher taxes for similar property as Lawrence) and it cost $125.00 each quarter ($500/year) for one pickup per week. Lawrence was going to charge around $350.00/year for the trash fee...doesn't seem outrageous to me. Cranbury, Princeton Twp., Hopewell Twp., Montgomery Twp., Plainsboro all have private trash collection. And as previously mentioned, these towns cost more to live in...they aren't crying for the town to provide the service. All of these towns also have school districts that FAR exceed the quality of Lawrence. If you want a bargain, don't expect superior services
Bob Bostock May 04, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I thought it might interest you to know that in September 2010 I authored a resolution calling on the legislature to pass a bill that would make private school provided faculty housing taxable, just like any other piece of property. The Council passed my resolution unanimously on September 21, 2010. The NJ League of Municipalities endorsed my resolution and made it a part of their legislative agenda for 2011. Unfortunately, our representatives in the legislature did not see fit to do anything about this. If Rider and the Lawrenceville School did pay taxes on their faculty provided housing, it would provide more than $400,000 a year in additional revenue. It would take a constitutional amendment to make the entirety of educational properties taxable, but since the constitutional language says the exemption goes to property used "exclusively" for educational purposes, my view is that housing provided to faculty is not an exclusive educational purpose.
John May 05, 2012 at 12:25 AM
I'm wondering where all the criticism of the manager comes from. Fiscal management has always been a priority of the township and the mangers who work for council. Blaming the manager for the tax appeals is like blaming a gas station attendant for high fuel prices. To address the comments about the unmarked police cars; those who have them are chief executives and as such are required to respond as needed with maybe one or two exceptions. The cars are not even a realized expense.The funds, before anyone starts to complain can only be used for such things as equipment and not salaries. And, even if well intentioned, Lawrenceville does not need armored personnel carriers and does not need to pay the insurance for them. To Bob, you are missed but your party, our party would never agree to a property tax increase by anyone including schools. No disrespect to you Bob. Your intentions were good and you ultimately did get what you wanted in respect to municipal employee contributions for health care. Once this year ends, anyone making 100,000k which seems to be a benchmark of criticism will be paying 35%. More than most non government workers. So I ask again, any other questions or concerns?
Joe Retired May 05, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Clarity, You get rid of the Chief and Deputy Chief and promote 1 Lt. to chief. The Lt. gets a raise but you get rid of 2 Big salaries.You don't need all these high ranking Officers that work only Monday through Friday 8-4. If they were truly needed they would work nights and weekends when it is MUCH busier !
Joe Retired May 05, 2012 at 03:55 AM
The Deputy Chief could not do a Patrolman's job !
Lawrencevillegal May 05, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Taking more moeny from the private sector is not an answer Cowboy. The problem was caused by public sector over spending so the solution can only be found within the public sector.
Cowboy May 07, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Ahh Lawencelegal, explain why these schools and all the private home that are used by facuilty be exempt from paying property taxes? Is it because they may(know someone) I would rather have the schools pay their fair share of taxes rather than layoff any township employee. Duh.
Concerned Taxpayer May 07, 2012 at 05:12 PM
The frivolous spending has caught up to them. In such bad economic times, why would a town drop between 3-4 million in greenacres/open space? Its a classic case of self centered people in positions of power unloading on the rank and file to take the heat off of them for their choices of poor financial management. The manager and council have no one to blame but themselves. Us residents WILL feel the hit if the emergency services get messed with. Mark my words!!!!!!!
Stupid Me May 08, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I am just another taxpayer wondering why the deputy chief and chief have not been given their walking papers. Swallow your ego's and do the taxpayers and employees below you a favor. For once put the arrogance and selfishness aside. Retire
David Smith May 16, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I just love it when taxpayers say no to higher taxes and no to cuts as well. One you have a choice about but when you do make that decision you can't complain about the latter. I'm all for going after waste but sooner or later you have to decide which is more important paying more or getting less. You make this decision every time to go to the store so it shouldn't be so painful nor so dramatic. Did you really think that 2% cap wasn't going to come back and bite us in the rear end sooner or later. Were you so taken in by the Governors trickle down economic plan to believe our costs would remain below 2% during an economic downturn? I'm thinking basic economics should be a requirement in school because most people are clueless. The state was living above it's means and passing money down to townships now that money is no longer available so we have to pay it ourselves or cut all but basic services. There is no longer much middle ground. By all means cut the waste but that won't be enough. Oh and perhaps we can let a few new businesses open up without everyone within ten miles crying like a little girl.

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