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Trash 'User Fee' Would Be Mandatory If Tax Referendum Is Voted Down

"If a trash user fee is instituted there would be no ‘opt out’ provision. The user fee would be considered a municipal charge and unpaid municipal charges are subject to being included in the tax sale.” ~ Lawrence Township Manager Richard Krawczun

The that will take place next month is, without doubt, the topic of discussion in Lawrence Township right now. Residents are talking about it everywhere. They’re holding family meetings about it at the dinner table; they’re debating about it with coworkers, neighbors and strangers they meet in the checkout line at the local deli; and they’re arguing about it in online forums and at public gatherings like the one that took place .

If township voters approve the referendum on April 17, the municipal tax rate will increase 9 cents above what is allowed by the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap and residential trash collection will remain unchanged. If voters reject the referendum, the municipal tax rate increase will stay below cap but residential trash collection will be removed from the municipal operations budget; trash costs will instead be covered by a new “user fee” assessed against all residential property owners in town.

In recent days several township residents have been overheard publicly stating that they plan to vote against the referendum and not pay the trash user fee that would result from the referendum being defeated. These individuals have said they would find alternative means of disposing of their household waste.

What these individuals apparently do not realize is that they would not be allowed to decline residential trash service to avoid paying the “user fee.” And failure to pay such a fee would be handled under the law in the same manner as a property owner not paying taxes – the owner would face late fees and interest and, eventually, have a lien placed against their property.

“If a trash user fee is instituted there would be no ‘opt out’ provision,” Township Manager Richard Krawczun confirmed on Tuesday. “The user fee would be considered a municipal charge and unpaid municipal charges are subject to being included in the [annual] .”

The additional 9 cents that the municipal tax rate would increase if the referendum is approved by voters would add another $144.75 to the 2012 municipal tax bill for the owner of a home assessed at the current township average of $160,828.

Currently, trash collection and trash disposal “tipping” fees are paid by the township through its municipal operations budget, with the costs being shared equally – through the collection of municipal taxes – by both homeowners and commercial property owners, even though commercial properties do not benefit from the trash collection services.

If the referendum is rejected and trash collection is removed from the municipal budget, residential property owners would have to pay the new user fee – which has been estimated at about $336 per year. The user fee would not be assessed against commercial property owners.

Krawczun and council members have repeatedly noted that, for most homeowners, the 9-cent tax rate hike via approval of the referendum would ultimately cost less than the trash user fee that would result from the referendum’s defeat.

The township manager and council members have also pointed out that municipal taxes are deductible on individual income tax returns, representing further savings, whereas trash user fees are not deductible.

“Approval of the tax levy referendum will continue to provide for the payment of trash collection services through the municipal budget and the additional amount will remain tax deductible.  Disapproval of the referendum will require the establishment of a user fee for trash collection services that would not be tax deductible. Residents would not be able to ‘opt out’ of the service. In addition, the user fee would be treated under the law as a municipal charge and treated in the same manner as unpaid real estate taxes subject to tax sale,” Krawczun explained. 

The referendum on April 17 will be held in conjunction with the and .

The referendum will ask voters to approve a 9-cent increase to the municipal tax rate, in addition to a 5-cent increase already built into the 2012 municipal budget.

The 5-cent hike will raise the municipal tax rate from $0.84 per $100 of assessed property value to $0.89, meaning that the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $160,828 will pay about $1,431 in municipal taxes for 2012, or about $80 more than in 2011.

The additional 9 cents, if approved through the referendum, would raise the municipal tax rate to $0.98, increasing the 2012 municipal tax bill for the average home owner by $144.75.

The likelihood of a referendum was first discussed when Krawczun presented his and explained that the township had some tough financial choices ahead thanks, in large part, to a cumulative decline of more than $167 million to the township’s tax base due to successful tax appeals by commercial and residential property owners during the last five years, including a loss of $38.3 million during 2011.

At that Jan. 17 meeting, Krawczun explained that in order to raise the $42.35 million needed to fund township operations and services during 2012 and still comply with the state’s 2 percent tax levy increase cap, the municipal tax rate would need to be increased by 5 cents and 97 percent of the township’s available cash surplus – or $4,870,000 – would need to be used as revenue for the year

Having to use 97 percent of the surplus fund to balance this year’s budget would leave the township financially unable to respond to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or other unforeseen crisis, and would also create “catastrophe” in 2013 because not enough surplus would be available as a revenue source to help balance the 2013 budget, Krawczun has said.

Krawczun estimated that about $2.6 million in surplus will be “regenerated” this year through the collection of delinquent taxes, along with fines and interest, and “unanticipated” revenue like fines generated by the red light traffic enforcement cameras on Route 1. That, according to Krawczun, meant the township could use an equal amount of surplus as revenue to balance this year’s budget. But in order to leave the remaining money untouched in the surplus fund this year for use later in 2013, the township had to find another way to plug the resulting $2,275,000 hole.

With that in mind, , Krawczun explained how the additional 9-cent increase, approved by referendum, would generate the money needed to balance the budget and preserve the surplus fund. During that same meeting he first discussed the trash user fee option.

, following a request from council for such a scenario, Krawczun outlined a plan that would balance the budget by eliminating all recreation programs and firing 36 township workers, including essential personnel like eight police officers and all ambulance staff. Council members ultimately rejected the layoff plan after Krawczun explained that the loss of so many workers would have a devastating effect on township services.

 

See also:

  • Feb. 23: “”
  • Feb. 9: “”
  • Jan. 18: “”
Rich March 15, 2012 at 12:17 AM
The greatest casualty in this episode will be the complete loss of confidence in our "leaders". The strong-arm tactics, disinformation ("we can't use our post-Irene surplus for fear of the next one"), refusal to compromise ensures these amateurs will be voted out of office. I'm for questioning the legality of cramming a "user fee" down our throats. As for "user fee" - if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck, or tax, in this case.
Plant it March 15, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Wait, trash collection is considered to be a necessity right? Is brush and leaf collection on the same level? Cut that and see how much is saved! I am sure the regular people can come with other great ways to save a couple million...
Taxable Bill March 15, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I am offended by the audacity of the manager to propose a no win option for taxpayers. With the quality of life risk to the trash TAX I don't see this as a viable option. Ewing township just contracted with WM to ensure trash is picked up and disposed of regardless of a households ability to contract disposal based on personal factors. A household trash contract will allow for trash pick up on a contracted day which could put trash trucks through a neighborhood everyday rather than once a week. What happens to those households that don't pay their bill on time and their service is suspended? Do the neighbors suffer from the smell of old trash? Do neighbors fill each others cans with garbage? Will the township have to hire a compliance officer to handle trash issues or will those issues be dumped on an short staffed public works? I would hope trash compliance would not incur additional costs to the taxpayers. I'm against a referendum also. While the manager proposes projects as dog parks and additional sports fields how can we really take this "financial crisis" seriously? There is no money to update the current dog park he proposes to build another? I also see replacement costs for fire trucks. While I am sure there is a useful standard of life for these machines I am certain that going a few years over in a town like ours will not put our firemen in any danger. They are not fighting fires everday and the equipment is surely not being abused?
Taxable Bill March 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM
If desperate times call for desperate measures how can we as taxpayers buy into the level of desperation being preached to us when it doesn't seem that desperate measures are being taken. If you want to gain support and to be taken seriously your approach to the taxpayers leaves a lot to be desired.
Taxable Bill March 15, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I am sure there are many other serious ways to cut costs. Let's stop with the rehearsed speeches and comments. It is time that the elected officials put some effort into the jobs they have be elected to and come up with a logical and realistic budget. The officials have put themselves behind the eight ball now because of the limited time they now have to get the budget proposed and passed, that is their own fault not the taxpayers. Honesty always pays and there was a lot of misinformation and BS that was given out as fact by Krawczun and I personally don't appreciate it. Stop blaming the feds, state, taxpayers, employees / teachers and look in the mirror Mr. kruwczun. You can project their cost for years to come which means you failed to plan.
Plant it March 15, 2012 at 04:46 PM
A dog park? What's the price tag on that. Nobody uses the one we have now. Cut it from the budget!
Taxable Bill March 15, 2012 at 05:21 PM
ONLY $30,000. Only is the key word. It's ONLY his much and ONLY that much. All of those ONLYS add up. Plus it's going to cost money to maintain it and Krawczun cut out the update money for the dog park we have now. Irresponsible recommendation in my opinion. As I said, how do we as taxpayers really take Krawczun serious?
Linda March 15, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I say Taxable Bill how do we get rid of Richard Krawczun? I wonder if it has ever been investigated as to whether or not anyone gets any kickbacks on this dumbass projects? I am not accusing anyone, but I do wonder!
Plant it March 16, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Hey tax man: since you are good with numbers what's brush collection worth? I say make the home owner responsible for that and then cut some of those salaries, huge fuel bills and equipment maintance.
Plant it March 16, 2012 at 12:25 AM
I am guessing it's an easy half million for salaries and fuel alone
larry March 16, 2012 at 11:02 AM
It is all BS threaten to do away with garbage collection because it affects every household. You might scare enough people to vote for the increase. Do we need all rec programs lets make some cuts through the whole town. New equipment being bought for PW lets start tightening the belt. The parks dept had to be the most poorly run dept in the town. The dems are digging a hole they will never be able to get out of. Some council members have been getting their friends hired for years. Why would you hire a 55 yer old man to do a laborers job where were the tax increases last year . Oh that's right it was an election year. Wake up Lawrence
grill master March 16, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Seriously? A dog park paid for with tax dollars? Why is this needed? I could understand if Lawrence was a big city with no open land then it would be needed. But it's not, that is just beyond ridiculous.
T B March 16, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I agree that they shouldn't be hiring anyone else at PW but I also don't think we should cut the laborers that are currently there. Cutting any job like the laborers, police, emt's, firefighters, and rec dept is a HUGE mistake. These people work hard and don't deserve to be cut.
whendoesitend March 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Why do the taxpayers have to suffer because the midget manager and his hoard of characters mismanaged the town? Vote against every one of these people currently holding a seat. A real good look at the department heads needs to happen now to. Changes are needed on many levels
franky2time March 17, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Pennington contracts trash per household. There are only two contractor's to choose from there. The trash companies will not pick up anything that is not in the containers. The trash companies will not do bulk item pick up. So mr krawczun here are juat a few problems that will arise if you jam this down or throats when we defeat your referendum. It will cause public works to start bulk pick up again which will coat money. It co#0uld cause illegal dumping spikes and who is going to take the trash items that dont fit in the cans? Short sighted fix to a bigger problem......GREEDY POLITICAL AGENDAS FROM YOU AND COUNCIL.
Linda March 17, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Welcome to the world of Comrades Krawczun and the Lawrenceville Councils Beth!
Linda March 17, 2012 at 07:19 AM
Franky I believe this is their goal is to make us pay!
Linda March 17, 2012 at 07:20 AM
Where do we start? I have never been so angry as I am over this.
Linda March 17, 2012 at 07:23 AM
The GALL of this sobs to do this to us in this miserable economy. They do not care about their constituents one bit, it's all about the power! Can we get rid of Krawczun and the crew with a petition, does anyone know? If they have to do this to us then Krawczun is not doing his job!
Linda March 17, 2012 at 07:26 AM
It is croneyism at it's best and we are paying for it! If I hear about another trail or dog park I will vomit!
Max R March 18, 2012 at 11:04 AM
It's simple. Just vote ALL 5 of your council members out of office when they come up for re-election. They have proven that they are powerless against our municipal manager. It takes real guts to make tough decisions and our council clearly has no guts and no desire to reign him in.
Just a thought March 18, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Maybe they could have saved all that money, they wasted, on the unwanted and unnecessary lines on Bergen
Tires and rims March 18, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Max R hit the nail on the head. Vote all 5 spineless cowards out of office. Not one of them will stand up to Krawczun. The mayor position is useless and the other 4 powerless followers are ineffective at best.
no clue March 19, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Everyone should read this. Everyone that works for the township of Lawrence is corrupt!! http://www.trentonian.com/article/20120316/NEWS01/120319820/ewing-mayor-bert-steinmann-balks-at-lawrence-warehouse-purchase
K. Lew March 19, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Everyone is corrupt? Care to connect the dots for us, "no clue"? What's that got to do with the Ewing warehouse purchase or Steinmann's complaint?
Linda March 19, 2012 at 11:50 PM
No clue I agree with you. Lawrence Twp need an audit, now! I would like to see it start with Richard Krawczun and people we have contracts with.
no clue March 20, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Well "K. Lew" or probably known as council member Kathleen Lewis. Read this ..... Steinmann adds, “Instead of shifting this financial burden to its neighbors, I implore the board to refocus its search for suitable properties within Lawrence Township so that Lawrence residents will appropriately bear the financial responsibility for Lawrence’s publicly owned facilities.” Township residents would have a bird if Lawrence did this in our township, while they are trying to impose a tax increase already, this would probably add a few more cents on. But instead since they know this wouldn't fly in Lawrence they are trying to do this in another tonwship. Figures.
Herman With Kloo March 20, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Loss of $875,000 in ratables would require an increment to the tax rate of a small fraction of a penny. Steinmann is just making noise because it plays well to the math-challenged. That's probably why Waters didn't get his letter until after it was sent to the media. The comments in this thread are a disappointing and unhelpful sideshow. I don't see a corruption connection either. You may not like how Council has handled finances, but the overwrought accusations of "cronyism" and "greedy political agendas" are nutty. We have high taxes, it sucks, get over it. Or run for office. Nominating petitions are free.
Linda March 20, 2012 at 03:56 PM
How about recall petitions?
Stinki Garbaage April 17, 2012 at 10:45 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

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