Mayor chides Trenton

By ROBERT LINNEHAN

In a sparsely attended public hearing for the 2011 fiscal year budget, Mayor Bernie Platt updated the township residents on the efforts of council to reduce costs and keep spending at an even level from last year’s budget. The next step is for the township committee to pass the final fiscal year document.

With the nationwide recession and increased expenses from the state, Platt said the township has put most of its efforts into cutting costs to keep municipal taxes at an acceptable level for township residents.

Platt referenced Trenton’s old slogan, “What Trenton makes the world takes,” and said in today’s climate the slogan should simply be changed to “Trenton takes.”

“In short, we’ve seen a combined loss of revenue and increase in pension payments of almost $9 million. And, if you add the state-mandated library payment of almost $5 million to that number, you’re talking about $14 million in payments and loss revenue directly related to the Golden Dome,” Platt said. “This number makes up more than 20 percent of our total budget.”

Expenses in the township are down by more than $3 million, Platt reported. The township has gone from an employee force of 351 in 2006 to 294 presently, Platt said.

Members of council also passed several shared service agreements between the township, the fire district, the police department and the school district last week to help cut costs in Cherry Hill.

“On this night, we are working with the fire company to consolidate fueling stations, share costs for the office of emergency management and share materials for future capital projects,” Platt said. “These shared service resolutions are another example of entities working together to drive down costs and save taxpayers money.”

The taxing entities in the township see the need to work together to keep costs low, Chief of Staff Dan Keashen said, which is why the shared service agreements were approved last week.

The township agreed to provide its DPW employees for future fire district projects, Keashen said, which will help save the district costs on construction. The district won’t have to go out to the market to contract services and will be able to use the Cherry Hill DPW employees at the best market rate, Keashen said.

Also, the township agreed to allow the fire district to use its own gas pumps to fuel vehicles. The township has a bulk rate gas contract with the state, which is about 30 to 40 cents less than the retail price for gas. The fire district will pay Cherry Hill a service charge to use the pumps, Keashen said, but will still save on fuel costs overall.

Finally, the township, the fire district, and the police department will combine their resources to help improve Cherry Hill’s office of emergency management.

In the past few years it’s become apparent that these separate taxing entities need to come together to improve the overall service for township residents and reduce costs. Keashen said Platt has spearheaded efforts in the past three years to bring together the entities that have historically almost been separate factions.

“Previously you just had individuals running their own operations. When you start to bring people from these existing entities together it yields more ideas which are beneficial for Cherry Hill,” Keashen said.

Keashen said the 2011 fiscal year budget may be adopted as early as December.