LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, N.J. – In continuing municipal budget discussions the Lawrence town council rejected a proposed job cut and a cut in all recreation programs as budget alternatives for the 2012 municipal budget on Feb. 21, allowing for further discussions on a tax hike to go to referendum for voter approval.
As a way to alleviate the current budget situation faced by the township, Municipal Manager Richard Krawczun, proposed his new alternative to the town council. The new alternative proposed a cut in 36 members of the township personnel along with totally eliminating the towns current recreational programs, which did not include the townships elderly care program. The proposed job cut asked for the dismissal of eight township police officers and emergency medical personnel along with many other essential services. Krawczun went on by adding that, “I’m not making these recommendations. As I’ve pointed out to many people, many times, when we look down the bench to put somebody in the game, everybody’s already in the game. We have no substitutes… I keep hearing, ‘Run it like a business.’ In order to do the service correctly, we need these people.”
The tax increase that was proposed in prior town council meetings would increase the current tax rate by $0.05 bringing taxes up from $0.84 to $0.89 per $100 of assessed property value. The $0.05 increase would just be enough to meet the year’s budget leaving the town with $154,000 of surplus funds. Krawzcun had also proposed an additional increase of $0.09 on top of the $0.05 increase, which would exceed the states 2% cap and would need voter approval for any further action. Krawzcun along with the proposed personnel cuts and tax increased spoke about the removal of sanitation services from the current municipal spending, but introduce the waste collection as a utility that would come to residents as separate fee monthly.
After hearing all of the current proposals the township council ultimately rejected the job cut, the liquidation of all of the recreational services provided by the town and the pushing the burden of waste removal on residents by making them pay for a service on top of their taxes. The Mayor, Jim Kownacki, responded to the proposal of laying off 36 s municipal employees by stating that, “Personally, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.” The Mayors statement essentially rejected the proposals and motioned towards the tax increase referendum.
Other council members along with the Mayor added to the response of rejecting the proposed job and recreation program cuts along with the trash collection proposal by stating that they are essential to the function of the township. Councilman, Greg Puliti, responded to the EMS personnel cuts by saying, “ what do we use to protect our firemen, our police, and all road workers if there is a hurricane or something like that.” Councilman powers also added to the cut of EMS services by saying that even outsourcing the service is a “…It’s a short-term gain, long-term loss.” Powers also responded to the recreation program cut by bringing up the rise of obesity in the current younger generation, and that it will increase the onset of various weight related problems.
With the proposals rejected in this meeting the council unanimously agreed to move towards a referendum for the $0.14 tax increase, which will be up for further discussion in the next council meeting that will be held on March 6, 2012 at the Lawrence Township Municipal Chambers.
*Facts were verified by in-person attendance of the council meeting and supported using an audio recording of the meeting.*