Galloway Township introduced a bond ordinance that would fund revenue losses for $1.4 million to help deal with a $3 million deficit in next year’s fiscal budget. Council recognized that this is not the whole solution, nor is it a long term one.
The bond ordinance was introduced at the council meeting on Tuesday night, Oct. 9, and the public hearing will be held at the next council meeting, on Oct. 23.
If approved, the township would have five years to pay back the bond.
“This is the first step in the budget process,” Township Manager Arch Liston said. “If we don’t do this, we’re going to have to find another $1.4 million in the budget. Our services would have to be cut down to the bare bones. We’d have no Public Works, and we’d have half the police department we do now.”
That would cut the police department down to about 27 officers. The department is at 54 officers currently, cut from 75 just a few years ago.
Township employees recently received notices of possible layoffs, and final layoff notices will be issued no later than Nov. 16. Statutory personnel didn't receive the notices, and the township recently discussed the need to protect law enforcement personnel.
The layoffs come after employees were furloughed in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"The auditor has been in communication with the (Department of Community Affairs)," Liston said. "The DCA called the day after the (layoff notices were issued) and this was one of the things they suggested."
“This is half the problem and we still have to make major cuts,” Mayor Don Purdy said. “If we took $3 million out of the budget all at once, we’d be left with no services.”
Council recognized this was not an ideal solution.
“Two years ago, we would never approve this,” Purdy said. “There is no surplus now. We’re down to very little.”
“This needs to be coupled with a real solution,” Councilman Brian Tyrrell said.
The possibility of going out for a referendum in March to exceed the 2 percent cap was discussed. Holding a special election would cost $30,000. Councilman Jim Gorman pointed out that in that situation, the township would have to identify where the cuts would come from.
"If the referendum failed, you would have to act immediately," Township Clerk Thalia C. Kay said.
"I guarantee it would fail," Councilman Tom Bassford said. "Taxpayers are not going to vote for a tax increase."
The introduction of the ordinance was coupled with the vote to approve a reassessment for the 2014 tax year. The goal of the reassessment is to put the value of all properties on a level playing field in the wake of over 2,000 tax appeals being filed in 2012, council said.
"We're at a tipping point," Councilman John Mooney said. "If we don't take this step, we'll really be stuck between a rock and a hard place."