“The reality is that on January 1, 2013, we’re going to have to lay people off,” Galloway Township Manager Arch Liston said during the budget workshop Tuesday night, April 10 at the
Liston’s statement reflects the grim outlook of this year’s budget and of budgets going forward.
“Furloughs were a great concept when we needed to cut costs and we thought the economy would recover,” Liston said. “That hasn’t happened.”
Liston didn’t have an exact number of people he thought might have to be laid off, or where they would come from, but he emphasized the township had to have a balanced budget. He said $1.1 million was the target number, which is the amount of money the township will need next year, once it stops deferring school taxes.
That amount increased from $650,000 in 2009 to $1.2 million in 2010, and from $400,000 in 2011 to a projected $1,222,316 for 2012.
“It’s a horrible policy,” Auditor Leon Costello said. “You’re using the school tax twice because you use it in your budget and you have to pay the schools. It’s absurd that it’s allowed to be done.”
Costello said not replacing people who retire would serve the same purpose as laying off employees when it comes to reaching the $1.1. million number.
“There’s a certain amount of the workforce looking to retire,” Mayor Don Purdy said, adding he didn’t know an exact number who had retirement plans. “I don’t want to lay off any more employees.”
Although January 1 is when the layoffs must take effect, the process must begin well ahead of time.
“We have to begin October 1, 2012 so that they are all done by January 1,” Costello said.
“We need to start the process in July and August, and we have to let the employees know ahead of time,” Liston said.
Galloway Fire Chief Ron Garbutt was concerned about the potential for layoffs.
“We only have one employee and we need that employee,” Garbutt said. “We need to stabilize that. We make up three percent of the entire budget and we have probably the biggest department. We need to make sure our people stay stable.”
Township employees are taking 12 furlough days this year in accordance with an agreement between the township and Local 210 reached last The union filed a grievance with the township to recover money township employees lost over furlough days. The employees were furloughed in 2010, and furloughs were then extended into 2011 before the sides reached an agreement in March of 2011.
The employees did not recover their money, but part of the agreement called for employees to take 12 furlough days in exchange for an assurance that no one would be laid off for two years.
Costello said this year’s $24.2 million must pass as is. The budget carries a 1.7¢ tax rate increase, meaning residents with homes assessed at $100,000 would see an increase of $17 a year in taxes.
“This is not a terrible increase. There are higher around,” Costello said. “You need to start working on the 2013 budget right now.”
The township has lost a total of $76,489,188 in appropriations over the past two years, highlighting the need for ratables in the township.
Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola highlighted the need during the regular meeting that followed the budget meeting, when discussing the Route 30 corridor and the abandoned Lennox China building.
“We need ratables,” Coppola said. “I hope we can tip the scales.”
Tax appeals have increased since 2009, from $1,100 to $1,900. Last year, appeals amounted to $1,000, meaning appeals have almost doubled.
Liston also voiced concern that the in lieu of paying taxes on the is for three years, and that it may not continue beyond 2013.
Money generated from municipal court costs have decreased, from $265,869 in 2009 to a projected $245,532 for 2012.
“When you lose cops, you have a secondary impact in that you have less tickets and less arrests, so there are less court costs,” Costello said. “The police department has increased its productivity over the last year, but in a down economy, the collection rate is less.”
The public hearing on the budget is April 24.