As a state, we can not correct 20 years worth of problems in one year. We can however, plan for change over the next three or four years and transition those changes into place fairly and evenly. Shock therapy is not the right treatment for our local governments and schools. This is not an episode of “Law and Order” where the case is open and shut in one hour.
Please slow down Governor Christie. Your intentions are good, but you can’t throw local government and education into a total tailspin all at once. A 2.5% budget cap is good, as long as you can control all the forces that impact municipal and school budgets that are beyond our control—which you can’t at this point. Factors like utilities, fuel costs, health care premiums, insurance, and other issues affect our budgets. These factors make a 2.5% “hard” budget cap unrealistic until you put certain items outside the cap. Many of the changes you plan for in your “toolbox” will take 2 to 4 years to phase in. Taking municipal energy tax receipts away from local governments or slashing surplus dollars from good performing school districts only hurts property taxpayers more until other issues are resolved.
I understand that times are changing. I have served as an elected official for 19 years—16 as a very active mayor. I’ve seen good and bad with local government and school districts but, mostly good! There are hard working local elected officials in most municipalities around New Jersey who are trying to do the best for their taxpayers and their communities.
Local government provides a wide range of services and at a fair value. In fact, there are some things that local government can do better than anyone else. Examples include: seeing that trash and recycling is picked up, maintaining and plowing roads, keeping beautiful parks and playgrounds, protecting our communities with fire, ambulance and police services plus so much more.
Governor Christie I’m asking you to slow down and listen to the concerns of municipal and school officials. We are good citizens that help run our state and educate our children. We can be cost effective, and use good judgment. Why not sit down and listen to our ideas and find some medium ground.