Having reviewed the initial 2010 municipal budget in detail, a few things stand out:
a) While the current 10% plus tax increase will certainly be reduced, the refusal of the committee to set a realistic tax increase target is troubling. After refusing to set targets in the years leading up to and including 2005's 11.1% increase, targets were used in each of the three years (2006-2008) I served as Finance Liaison. The results speak for themselves as the township experienced three consecutive tax increase declines leading to 2008's 2.3% increase, the smallest in five (5) years. Last year's (2009) 3.7% tax increase represented an astounding 60% increase in tax growth. This in a year when the CPI only increased 2.7%.
b) The current $600K plus budget gap is entirely due to a combination of loss revenue associated with a single year $1 million plus depletion of the surplus and the loss of $200K in revenue from the Chesters after they abandoned Washington Township in liu of the county for public safety dispatch services.
c) The loss of over a million dollars in the township surplus account in a single year is unprecedented. Perhaps had Mayor Short not terminated the Finance Liaison position, someone would have been tracking this throughout 2009 and come up with strategies to remedy the situation early on. This is a clear example of what happens when everyone claims shared responsibility, yet in reality, no single person did anything.
d) The loss of revenue from the Chesters could not have come at a more inopportune time. Perhaps with better leadership, the reductions in staff that have been achieved could have been positioned with the Chesters in a manner that may have retained their business.
e) One bit of good news. The annual allocation for the Library has been reduced by $15K versus last year. This was not included in the figures presented on Tuesday.