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Saturday, May 18, 2024

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Lower Cuts Tax Increase to Zero

 

By Jack Fichter

VILLAS — Following recommendations from its members and the public, Lower Township Council cut $1,030,000 from the proposed 2010 budget producing a zero tax increase from municipal spending.
Taxpayers will still see a 6.7-cent increase in the tax rate due to a devaluation of properties that reduced the township’s ratable base by $613 million.
At a Monday council meeting, Auditor Leon Costello said 25 line items in the budget were reduced and use of an additional $260,000 in surplus funds. Line items affected included reduction in salary and wages and other expenses for township council, clerk’s office, manager’s office, revenue and finance, assessor, tax collector, planning and development, public safety, police dispatchers, emergency management, public works, municipal court and construction office.
He said $188,000 was used in the budget from the reserve for uncollected taxes.
Council amended the budget to reflect the changes in the budget. A public hearing on the amendment and a final vote on the budget are scheduled for May 17.
Mayor Michael Beck said no layoffs were planned.
“That’s terrific,” said resident Jack Sparks of the zero tax increase.
Resident and township employee Robert Bailey questioned if council should have allowed a small tax increase this year to prevent layoffs next year if the Gov. Chris Christie caps tax increases to 2.5 percent.
Lt. Detective Thomas Keywood read a statement from Lower Township Police Chief Edward Donohue. He noted the police department had 55 full time officers in 1995.
When this administration was elected, the department was down to 46 full time officers and through attrition, three more officers: a patrolman, a sergeant and a lieutenant were not replaced in the last year and a half, said the statement.
The chief said he was being told the township might not replace two additional officers, one who has resigned and a school resource officer for the high school. Donohue noted 10 officers could retire from now through 2012. He said it took about one year to do a background investigation of new officers, put them through the police academy and assign them to a field officer before they patrol on their own.
Donohue asked the mayor and council to hold the line in the department to 42 sworn officers until the financial situation improves. He noted in 2006, five officers were assaulted in the line of duty, nine in 2007, 12 in 2008 and 15 in 2009.
In his statement, Donohue said the township could not continue to cut full time officers without impacting the officers’ and public’s safety.
Beck said the school resource officer would be replaced keeping the total of officers to 4.

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