On a night in which the township’s various departments went before the public to discuss the proposed budget breakdown, there was a lot of talk about efforts to keep the post office open in Galloway Township.
At the council meeting on March 14, the township introduced a $24.2 million that carries a 1.7¢ tax rate increase, meaning homes assessed at $100,000 would see an increase of $17 a year in taxes.
Both Township Manager Arch Liston and members of council acknowledged the budget as being a “bad budget,” and a special meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday night, April 3, 5 p.m. at the municipal complex to discuss the budget with the auditor.
“Not much is going to change” at that meeting, Mayor Don Purdy said. “It is what it is. The budget’s a Band-Aid. The township employees have given and given. You’ve heard the term, ‘Sharpen your pencils.’ Well, the fingers are bleeding. There’s no more sharpening that can be done.”
Purdy pointed to staff reductions, which every department of government presented at the council meeting on Tuesday night, March 27:
- as a township, full-time employment is down from 174 full-time employees in 2009 to 145 this year;
- finance is down from 16 full-time employees in 2009 to 13 this year;
- public works is down from 44.27 employees in 2009 to 31.93 this year;
- community development is down from 10 employees in 2009 to six this year; and
- the is down to what will likely be 54 officers as of July, and has seen calls for service increase from 31,343 in 2008 to 37,792 this year. Additionally, the police department has 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, which is the lowest ration in Atlantic County, according to chart presented by Police Chief Patrick Moran.
Salaries are also down across the board, and Purdy pointed to the fact that township employees have to take 12 furlough days this year. Liston will also take the 12 furlough days, and the employee at the township-run will also be furloughed.
Resident Anna Jezycki is strongly in favor of keeping the open, and had signs printed up that read “Use it or Lose it,” reminding residents that if they don’t use the post office and the township has to close it, it can never be reopened.
“What people don’t understand is that once it can’t be brought back,” Jezycki said. “Once it’s done, it’s done, so you have to get out there and use it. Right now the post office is a wash, and things are going to keep getting worse, so people have to come out and use it more just to keep it where it is.”
During her presentation, Chief Financial Officer Marilyn Dolcy said keeping the post office open and increasing awareness of it is one of the finance department’s goals. Purdy said he also supports keeping the post office open, but doesn’t want to do so at the expense of other businesses.
“It’s hard times and everybody’s suffering,” Purdy said. “I don’t want the township to be out there promoting a business it’s not supposed to be in. I want to make it work, but the emphasis still needs to be on smaller government. I don’t want to put a guy out of business and then a year from now, we are, too.”
Purdy mentioned the across the street from the complex as one business he didn’t want to see suffer because of the effort.
The establishment of that post office brought with it the establishment of another ZIP code, which Purdy said the township would keep if that post office was closed.
The township-run post office doesn’t have P.O. boxes, which Purdy said the federal post office has denied the township on a number of occasions. He added Liston would request P.O. boxes be put in the township-run post office “one more time.”
“The (U.S.) Post Office is closing down post offices,” Purdy said. “If they can’t sustain them, how do we?”
Purdy praised the efforts of his post office worker, as well as the efforts and sacrifices of all township employees, including the department heads, who lead by example.
“If there’s a problem at 3 in the morning, (Community Development head) Rick Roesch is out there. You have the chief of police out there locking people up,” Purdy said. “The police captain is out there beating the path. They’re out there responding to every call. Kevin McDowell from Public Works goes out there to make sure things are done the right way. He leads by example and employees think of him differently.
“We’re going to make it through these hard times, and I thank all the employees and residents.”