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My recent Township newsletter reads something like a rant against state aid cuts and repeatedly laments the state of the economy and our local finances. We are led to believe that the 20% increase in health insurance, $47,504 increase in pension payments, $31,000 increase in trash collection cost just appeared overnight and that these costs are mandatory and must be adhered to without accepting responsibility for the cost increases in the first place. The letter hints at the real roots of the problems that face us when it is stated that we have had an increase in our budget and size of our community “65% over the last 10 years” and that state aid accounts for “most of the revenue in our budget”.
So in reality for the past ten years our representatives have been “growing our community” at an unprecedented pace all the while being totally dependent on the Nanny State to supplement our “growth”. To be clear, when I say “growth” I am not only referring to the size of our community but more importantly, the spending that coincides with that rapid expansion of the municipality. It is implied in the newsletter that state funds are not somehow tax payer monies by stating that “state aid and other sources account for most of the revenue in our budget, whereas the taxes you pay account for only a fraction of that total”. So, we are to believe that because it’s called “state aid” that it somehow magically appears with out coming from tax payers first?
The graphs that accompany the letter nicely prove my point. The letter admittedly states that “costs increase but state aid shrinks”. This begs the question why have costs increased? I know that “cost” as they put it, I like to call it “spending”, has nothing to do with the fact that state monies have been decreased. The decrease in “state aid”, however, empirically highlights the spending spree that has taken place over the past decade and the woes that are to come as a result, including a $610 tax increase on every $169,460 of property value to cover the loss of revenue from delinquent taxes, $47,504 increase in pension payments, and a 20% increase in health insurance.
Don’t buy the line that our current economic situation is simply due to state aid cuts and that it has nothing to do with the ten years of spending that put us where we are.
That said, the layoffs of a few municipality employees is regrettable and we wish them the best of luck in the private sector. Getting the current municipal employees to pay 1.5% of their health benefits is a great start and actually one of newly elected Governor Chris Christie’s main initiatives proposed in his Cap 2.5 budget control legislation which would cap any property tax increases to no more than a 2.5% increase over the pervious year as well as asking public employees to pitch in a meager 1.5% of their health coverage, up from zero percent for state employees.
The taxes that are coming are going to hurt and make worse our current situation. Apparently we suffer from rampant tax delinquency because people just cannot afford the current level of taxation and the spending. Their solution, add more taxes to that burden to cover their increased cost/spending.
Furthermore, the pie chart included with the newsletter illustrates the amount of taxes allocated for specific purposes. I would just like all to note the size of the portions we are currently spending on social education. The size of the education spending portion on this pie chart resembles something like Pac Man eating the pill. Sixty-three percent of the coming tax increase, according to the pie chart, will be allocated for social education. This means that although some sacrifices have already been made by a few individuals it shows that more cuts are needed in order to truly reign in spending and offset the decreases in state aid.
Do not allow incumbents to simply act like they are new players in this. Take notice that 63% of the proposed $610 tax increase to come is allocated for social education and compare that to the 65% growth of our community in the last 10 years and one can see clearly why costs are rising and rapidly. Education cost in this instance appears to be directly correlated to the recent growth of our community. Supplement that with a simultaneous increase in the cost of both health coverage and pensions and we have our current economic situation.
We should be trying even harder to alleviate folks from burdensome taxation, not to add to it year in and year out and simply throw our hands in the air and chalk it up to serendipity. To believe this is naiveté and elegantly demonstrates why new leadership is needed at all levels of our government as well as in planning boards and school boards. Serious leaders are needed now more than ever, who are not afraid to make the tough choices in tough times.
November cannot come soon enough!
Originally posted at: www.egtrc.com