The other latest(excuses) press release from our Township committee.
When a person is the minority vote on the Lakewood Township Committee, as Senator and Committeeman Robert Singer was for 12 years (four Democratic votes to Senator Singer’s lone Republican vote), it is just about impossible to effect change. During the 12 years, Committeeman Singer voted against the township budget eleven times, making him the sole vote against the township budget. The one year he did vote for the budget, he increased it by 10 percent, which would mean that the years he voted against the budget was only because he felt the increase was too low.
Committeeman Singer says, “I felt that we were using too much surplus in our budgets. We were growing the size of government. We were not considering the taxpayer; and, in some cases, even though the tax rate didn’t go up (In the years that I was in the minority), it was not because of careful spending but rather because of the increase of the ratable base. And I did nothing about it, of course.
“Secondly, I felt many of the professionals were being overpaid and being used too freely. It seemed as though every time the Township needed something done, they would call in another professional and that would cost.” Like your good friends Bathgate and Wouters? How much did our lawyer fees rise since you have been in control? Double? More than that?
Since the Republican party took control 18 months ago, the Township Committee is tackling taxes and township problems head on.When you tackle taxes head on, doesn't that cause the taxes to swell, and get larger? It hasn’t been easy. Committeeman Singer notes, “We were left with virtually no surplus(Blue Claws maintenance), about five thousand tax appeals that cost us legal fees, and an inspection department slated to lose one million dollars. Because you were paying employees from that department to offset other deficits and blame it on the inpection department which is supposed to be self supportive, with a separate set of books.
“The first thing we did, in the first 12 months, was ask for a reassessment of the town, in which you reassessed the senior communities much lower in order to give them a tax break, causing the rest of Lakewood to absorb the cost, guaranteeing you the senior vote, in order to curtail the huge amount of tax appeals, which cost the township hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Then we took a thorough look at the inspection department. To cut expenses, we did not fill the vacancies. In addition, we transferred people, who weren’t needed, to other departments. We laid off part-timers and brought the inspection department to a financial break even for this year. Again you simply stopped stealing from the inspection department. You don't get rewarded for simply not doing something wrong anymore because you were caught.
“Secondly, through the efforts of my colleague, Mayor Langert, we straightened out the problem with the EMS service, saving the taxpayers $700,000 this year. This year we have also made personnel cuts in departments, eliminated positions, renegotiated health insurance, and tightened our belt across the board so that even though we faced a 1.2 million reduction in state aid, we came up with a balanced budget, a zero increase, and no increase in spending.The municipal budget almost doubled in the past five years, from 23 million to over 43 million. We need to see a decrease, not a zero increase. We were living above our means, now we need to make up for that and give up some services. Enact furloughs, share services, use UEZ funds for the town, not our friends, and for political favors.
“We all want the same level of services, but keep in mind that last year we lost $750,000 in tax dollars from the state. In other words, in the last three years Lakewood Township has lost $3 million from the state, and we STILL brought the budget in at a zero dollar tax increase.EMS service was not a responsible place to cut first. Especially if there were ulterior motives involved. There are areas that are receiving white glove treatment, while others are lucky to receive basic service. It is almost as if the police, and public works feel that they only need to answer to certain people, and the "rest of us" are irrelevant.
“Now you can see the difference it makes being the majority. In the minority you vote against the budget, but it passes anyway, and you can’t change it. In the majority it becomes YOUR agenda. Our agenda has been to get the Town Hall on an even keel financially, and the proof of what we have done is in the 18 months.”And that is why the voters of this town want to make sure that you no longer are able to make these excuses anymore after November.Thank you for suffering through the minority all these years. The same minority that always did what you told them to? that couldn't have been too difficult. Here is to your next 29 years, not behind the Township Committee desk.