The Lawrence Township administration and council are in the process of drafting a letter that will be sent out to tax-exempt and nonprofit organizations in the township seeking “voluntary contributions” in lieu of the municipal taxes these groups do not pay.
In discussing the plan at the township council meeting that was held last Wednesday (June 6), Township Manager Richard Krawczun noted that the township would received an additional $2.5 million in revenue this year were these organizations required to pay municipal taxes – an amount which would solve the township’s ongoing budget crisis and avoid the need to lay off police officers and other municipal employees.
“In our workings with the three volunteers [who reviewed] the 2012 budget, one of the areas of discussion was taxes – or lack of tax dollars – from nonprofit or tax-exempt organizations,” Krawczun said. “Often that conversation focused on two of our larger nonprofits: Rider University and The Lawrenceville School. After looking around, I thought it may be an opportunity to raise additional funds [by] seeking a voluntary contribution, by way of solicitation to all of the nonprofits in Lawrence Township, and not limit it to the two largest. So I’d like to provide a list of the non-profits or the tax-exempt locations, and a draft of a letter that would be signed by the council and sent out to each of these organizations.”
“I would like to draw your attention to the first page of the letter, at the very last paragraph, because I think that’s quite telling,” he continued. “And I’ll read it for the public, and I know this is only a draft at this time: ‘Tax-exempt organizations 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 $2,559,000, which is the amount that would have closed the budget gap that Lawrence faced this year.’”
Krawczun said the township actually has $399 million in assessed property for which no taxes are paid, but $112 million of that land is owned by the government, such as the National Guard Armory on Eggerts Crossing Road.
Also during last week’s council meeting, Krawczun passed out to council members for their review and consideration a copy of a resolution put forth by the New Jersey League of Municipalities opposing pending legislation that would make “user fees for traditional municipal services” subject to inclusion within the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap. The Senate has already approved the legislation, but the bill still awaits a hearing before the Assembly’s Housing and Local Government Committee.
Krawczun also noted that he is preparing a list of township-owned properties for the next council meeting, to be held on June 19, so that the council can consider which properties it would like to offer for sale as a way to generate additional revenue for the township.
The list, Krawczun said, will be divided into two categories: smaller parcels that can be sold off to contiguous property owners, allowing them to create or increase their side or rear yards; and larger lots that can be developed but might require zoning variances or changes to the township’s land use ordinance.
During the public participation segment of the June 6 meeting, David Daniluk, general manager of Green Acres Country Club, presented to Mayor Jim Kownacki a $1,000 donation from the country club to benefit the township’s July 4th concert and fireworks show, which are .
An ordinance that would make changes to the township administrative code with regard to peddler permits was also introduced by council during the meeting. If approved at the next meeting on June 19, the ordinance “will add a fee for additional badges and background checks that are conducted in connection with a primary peddler’s permit,” Krawczun explained. “So if you have a company, let’s say ABC Corp., that applies for the initial permit for $75, their employees would now be charged an additional $8 for [each] badge, and it’s a simple background check that the police do. Currently, for additional budges, there [is] no fee.”
Another ordinance that would have amended the township’s municipal land use ordinance was removed from the agenda at the start of the meeting because, according to Krawczun, “additional language” needs to be added before it is formally introduced by council.
Also approved during the meeting was an ordinance amending how funds included as part of an earlier capital ordinance can be spent.
“Municipal bond law prohibits the proceeds of a capital ordinance to be used for any item other than the purposes specified in that capital ordinance,” Krawczun explained. “The previous ordinance, 1977-08, has additional excess funding available for concrete work. We are expanding the authorized purpose by adding accessibility improvements – ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] improvements – that will be used as a match for a Small Cities [Community Development] grant that we received in the amount of $100,000. So, that additional funding will be used to install those ADA concrete improvements throughout the community, where a need is determined by our engineer.”
Also approved by council during the meeting were 14 resolutions, including one increasing by $60,000 the contract amount for attorney David Roskos to serve as “special counsel in the matter of .” That increase brings the maximum amount of that contract up to $102,000, with funding available from the township’s self-insurance trust fund account, Krawczun noted in his meeting memo.
Council members went into executive session to discuss “personnel matters, potential litigation and labor negotiations.” At the conclusion of the executive session, the public was allowed back into the room and council approved one additional resolution concerning a “disability retirement application” for township Police Officer John Glenn.
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