Municipalities feeling the crunch

qdognjOctober 18, 2008

I don't doubt this is reality,but when times were great,why wasn't anyone preparing for the eventual "softening" of real estate/economy and in turn, tax revenue for the local government?

I have observed the absurdity of local governments in NJ blow literally millions of dollars.The concept of regionalization and shared services doesn't exist to any noticible measure. Is it necesary for towns with 10,000 or less residents to have a full police staff,volunteer fire departments,all decked out with the latest and greatest apparatus.Fully staffed and supplied department of public works...

How about school districts,with layers of administrators,that could easily be "merged" with nearby school districts and actually provide better opportunities and curriculum for students?

NJ is loaded with wasteful spending, and until local governements realize "home rule" doesn't work economically,taxpayers will bear the brunt of this..

Here is a link that might be useful: small town blues

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gibby2015

The entire government is loaded with wasteful spending - it's a way of life. Without competition and with a captive audience of taxpayers to keep footing the bill there is no need to make major changes to eliminate waste. Just keep raising taxes to fund more and more bloated, wasteful government operations.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 11:04AM
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qdognj

quick story..A town near where i used to live decided its firetrucks weren't good enough for the local parades(joking)..Seriously, the town decided to buy a new fire truck with all the "luxuries" such as dvd player,cd with surround sound,ac etc...Also included in the bids for the truck were 2 trips by the firechief and 1 assistant to visit the truck during "construction"...
After 12 months the truck was finally delivered..Unfortuneately the truck was LONGER then the existing firehouse!!!!! ROFLMAO....The township then had to put an addition on to accomodate the new truck, and while at it, added some much needed space for the "clubhouse"....Taxpayers were nailed for an additional 2 millions bucks...

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 12:05PM
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calliope

Where emergency services are concerned, the trend for going to one central location is frightening. We live in a rural area, and have for four decades. Many of the very small villages have given up their law enforcement departments and contracted with the local sheriff's department for protection. But, I really don't know if the number of road officers has increased proportionately. I do know at one time the public would have been petrified if they knew how few officers were on the road at any given time. And............it's a large county.

The bulk of the costs for operating a village police department is, believe it or not, liability insurance. Even those departments who supplement their regular personnel with commissioned and trained volunteer officers have to cover them with insurance.

The fire and ambulances? Our nearby city, the county seat has consolidated their fire stations and work from a central point now. The irony of it, however, if the station is in the traditional part of town, and all the businesses are in the shopping strip. LOL. Trying to drive an emergency vehicle down that street is dangerous in itself. I watched a car pull right out in front of an emergency vehicle last week, trying to beat a traffic light. They need MORE substations......not less.

Here in our rural area, I give thanks often for our township fire and emergency squads.........and they are run from the same office. Their staff works for nothing. zilch. They even pay for their own training. If we had to depend on fire or medical help coming from town, they'd still have to buy more vehicles and equipment, only we'd also be paying more salaries and waiting more minutes for units to respond. So, the taxpayers of this township vote in every levee they've ever asked for and gladly. We'd be taxed for it anyway, so at least we give it to the units who can reach us quickly.

I really agree that sharing costs and services are a good thing, as long as it doesn't compromise the most important part facets of emergency services. And location plays into that tremendously.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 3:02AM
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qdognj

I can't speak for rural communities and shared services or regionialization...But, in densely packed northern NJ, it is a waste of taxpayers dollars,many towns are less then 5 sq miles, and all have full services, and NONE have any equipment older then a few years,

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 9:06AM
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chisue

I ran into this provincial attitude when trying to combine Visiting Nurse Associations along the north shore of Chicago thirty years ago. There is tremendous resistance. You're *eliminating jobs* as well as fiefdoms. We did accomplish some mergers, but then the hospitals saw an opportunity. They co-opted VNA's providing sliding scale services into their profit-making home-care and hospice programs. (Nurses require MD's orders; MD's need hospital affiliation; hospitals pressure MD referrals to in-house services; volunteer-guided, community-based VNA's disappear.)

It's a similar story with schools there. The lure is the nationally highly-ranked township high school, but five towns' grammar schools feed into it, each with its many non-teaching personnel. Each town's parents are dead sure that their little district is superior and/or spends more wisely. Status quo wins over attempts to have a unified school disctrict.

Don't you love to read news reports of relatively minor fire or crime incidents where 'members of ten area forces responded'. Being a cop in some of these quiet burbs is so-o-o boring.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 11:33AM
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triciae

Looks from this article like cities/towns will be combining services or risk losing state funding assistance. Will be interesting to see how it plays out in my area. New England towns/villages are fiercely independant.

/tricia

Here is a link that might be useful: Amid Meltdown Cities Slash.....

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 3:22PM
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patser

I live in the first suburb west of Chicago and we are a dense urban area. My little suburb neglected to consider an economic slowdown at all leading into this mess so budget cutting is happening throughout the entire village. One other thing that our village fathers neglected to do is contract to buy road salt for this winter until the price had gone way up. As a result, we've already been warned that only intersections and main roads are going to be salted and we'll need to drive slower this winter. They're telling us that driving slower will mean fewer accidents so we shouldn't complain:) Plows will plow as needed when enough snow falls, but no salt will be spread on sidestreets. We'll get sand and we will like it! We are 9 miles from Lake Michigan and it sort of snows a bit in this area! The salt thing is poor planning which has nothing to do with the economic slowdown(although the other cutting is happening because of lower tax revenues). In addition, our village business manager is now investigating whether or not price fixing is going on in the Midwestern road salt industry. It's a joke here.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 3:51PM
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logic

We live in a rural community with our own 9 person police dept. If we did not have a police dept., the NJ State Troopers would be responsible for the job...except they are not always around as they travel from municipality to municipality for "coverage", so those towns they cover do not get the same response time as those towns with a police dept.

Recently, Gov. Corzine decided that the state would charge the communities for the State Police coverageÂÂeven though they were supposedly created for this very purpose. That said, those muniÂs will have to pay a lot more than they would if they had their own police departments.

In addition, while our town budget is well controlled, and the town elementary school keeps a tight reign on their budget, the HSÂwhich IS a shared service is totally out of control.

The HS has 3 sending districts, two of which comprise 85% of the student body. Ours is the other 15% and we often pay more in taxes for the school, as we have the least amount of people among which to spread the cost....even though we have the least amount of students.

Shared services "sounds" greatÂbut it is often more complex than it may seemÂand can (in NJ) be more costly than imagined

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 4:04PM
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qdognj

It shouldn't be more expensive,except for the fact the government can't implement the plans cost effectively...As i stated earlier, i can't speak for rural areas,but in areas in Northern Bergen County,why in the world does every municipality need at least 2 firehouses with all the latest and greatest? If my home burns 40% down with a local fire company responding, or 60% if the fire company is a tad further away,no big deal...Of course those who believe in home rule will tell you the more local fire dept may SAVE your life...scare tactics play a mjor role in this also..
Our police departments are now all tactical squads with high powered automatic weapons,body armor befitting those in Iraq, and in areas where the biggest crimes are shop lifting from the local grocery store,this is a BIG ripoff..
And don't get me started on the waste of school spending..My former district replaced ALL the computers in the k-5 school after 2 years!!!! They added classrooms in the anticipated needs of a wave of school age children about to enter the district,only to find the study MISCOUNTED the # of classrooms...Also the "wave" didn't materialize,after the budget was passed,of course...

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 4:22PM
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logic

qdognj: It shouldn't be more expensive,except for the fact the government can't implement the plans cost effectively

That should be the NJ state motto.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 11:40PM
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Cindy Noll

We live in SE PA & depend on State Police. Newcomers are always complaining about no police coverage. Our volunteer fire depts. buy their own equipment and are mainly at the mercy of donations. There are something like 74000 volunteer firemen in the nation, down from 378000 in 1974. We have move in jokers around here expecting paid fire departments and what a joke that is. They have no clue and should go back to the city.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 9:06AM
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qdognj

the volunteer fire dept buys their own equipment,mainly with donations? How is that possible? A firetruck costs 1/2 million dollars,+-....I can't imagine they can garner enough donations to pay for this...

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 9:47AM
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setancre

qdognj, I definitely hear where you are coming from. I live in NYC now and am looking to buy in NJ some time in the near future. Checked out a house listed at $499k in South Orange, which is a decent area but certainly not ritzy as far as NJ goes. With 20% down this is approx $2300 mortgage. Sounds good, until I find out that the property taxes on the house are over $25,000 a year or $2100 a month. That is complete insanity. I could never mentally justify spending just as much on my property taxes as I do on my mortgage.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 12:01PM
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qdognj

setancre, the reason South Orange property tax is that high is primarily it is a city, with few opportunities to add tax revenue as it is fully built out, and has all kinds of services...When i lived in Bergen County, my taxes were reasonable at 12k(2005)..and it was in a top=rated school district

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 1:04PM
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setancre

You might be thinking of somewhere else, South Orange is actually a small town. It doesn't even have its own high school, it shares one with Maplewood. It is in Essex county which has notoriously high taxes, but I just couldn't have ever imagined that property taxes could get that high in NJ. I underestimated!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 1:12PM
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qdognj

oops, paid no attention to "south",lol..thinking Orange..Was a fan of Seton Hall basketball for many eyars in the 80's,which if i recall properly,is in South Orange,should have known better

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 2:52PM
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chisue

More municipal backwards ways: Our town funds two garbage pick-ups per week. Garbage containers are set out beside a home's garage and electric carts come up the driveway to collect the garbage, then ferry it to a large truck in the street. Recycling buckets are set out at the curb once a week.

Virtually everything one *used* to put in landfill now goes into the recycling bucket. Our weekly garbage fits in one half-size container. The recycling bucket is heavy. The garbage is light.

In our prior town, if you wanted more than one garbage pickup a week you paid extra for it -- and it was set at the curb.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 10:49AM
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calliope

the volunteer fire dept buys their own equipment,mainly with donations? How is that possible? A firetruck costs 1/2 million dollars,+-....I can't imagine they can garner enough donations to pay for this...

It's because they don't. Our tax rate differential from township to township reflects that. Some also buy used and reconditioned tankers, and there are grants out there to be had sometimes. What is born by donations and the firefighters themselves are the training, some of the equipment, salaries or rather the lack of.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 8:29PM
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