Friday, May 22, 2009

The 2009 Municipal Budget Fails the Smell Test

On May 18, 2009, the Washington Township Committee finally introduced its 2009 Municipal Budget. Unlike last year, no special hearing has been scheduled to address any public questions or concerns. Here are a few (township CFO confirmed) highlights from this year's budget:

  • Municipal spending will increase 1.7% or $273K to a total of $16.57M
  • Local tax levy increase of $486K – the Open space tax levy will increase by $7K
  • Combined local tax rate growth of 3.84%, 67% more than 2008
  • Non local tax revenue will decline by $213K or 2.3%
  • A projected $520K decline in the Township surplus
  • A reduction the annual Debt Service payment of $83K
  • Capital spending is pegged at $740K
In addition, as you see from the chart below, this budget reverses the three year downward trend of municipal tax growth after the 2005 "all GOP" 11% municipal tax debacle.

At a time when many township families are struggling in a recession, this budget delivers a punishing one-two punch of increased spending and higher taxes. In addition, it includes a new kid's sports "fee" designed as a cowardly circumvention of the 4% state imposed tax levy cap.

To say this budget is a failure understates the profound fiscal incompetence of the committeemen who developed it. Sorry but you don't get points just for working hard. You get them for delivering tangible results.

Last fall, James Harmon promised to "manage spending and resulting taxation diligently and professionally". Well spending and taxes both went up. Is "diligently and professionally" the new code words for increased spending and higher taxes?

For several years Howard Popper ran on a prolonged platform of "lowering, not just containing taxes." Well for the first time in 4 years the rate of tax growth increased as opposed to decreases we had in the prior three years.

How would you rate Jim's and Howard's performance against what they said they would do when they campaigned for office?

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