TRENTON – Mayors shared their concerns about property taxes and municipal services at a roundtable discussion before the Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee Tuesday.
Mayor Steve Acropolis of Brick Township said since he took office in 2008, he’s seen the municipal workforce shrink, more services shared and more services being contracted to third parties.
There have been obstacles, though, such as the $180,000 spent on litigation for various civil services matters. His state aid has been cut by $5.6 million. He added that the 2 percent cap on property taxes has made it difficult to deal with senior “bumping rights.”
Over the past three years, the workforce has shrunk by 100 employees.
While the police force has also shrunk from 133 to 122, the smaller force was the result of attrition, not layoffs.
The town has entered into a shared service agreement with Toms River for building inspectors.
The cuts in workforce, he said, have saved the town $6.5 million in salaries and benefits.
Ever since the janitorial and accounting services were outsourced, the town has saved $900,000.
He made a request for the state. “I would like to see the state cut more.”
Another mayor, Jerry Fried of Montclair, described the 2 percent cap as “a real extreme hamper.”
Contrary to popular perception, Fried described Montclair as a middle-class community, since 17 percent of the students living in the community receive free and reduced lunch.
Several cuts to services and the workforce have taken place in the past year, he said.
Funding for the libraries was cut from $4.1 million to $2.4 million, causing them to scale back hours of operation and staffing.
“Our public safety is cut to the bone,” he said. “We’ve cut all the fluff.”
Among the items cut are arts culture funding, and a 4th of July celebration, among other public events it used to fund.
Fried warned there aren’t a lot of areas left to cut next year.
“We basically are being forced to be bad managers. We’re going to be breaking bones next year. “
In the town’s $70 million budget, there is a miniscule $400,000 in surplus, he said.
However, Mayor Acropolis said to the Assembly committee about the cap: “It’s the best thing you’ve ever done.”
“Without that 2 percent, we would not be able to get the unions to come back and give back their raises.”