By AUBRIE GEORGE
Under the proposed 2011 municipal budget, 22 township employees will lose their jobs. If a referendum question asking residents if the township can increase taxes about 25 percent does not pass, more layoffs and cuts in services are on the way.
The 2011 municipal budget, with all of its cuts, is still facing a $2.3 million budget gap. The only way to close that gap is to raise taxes or cut services and personnel.
If approved at the polls, a 16.5 cent tax increase would mean an extra $325 in municipal taxes under the 2011 municipal budget for the average Medford homeowner. The tax revenue would give the township an additional $2.3 million in revenue, therefore closing the budget gap.
If not approved, the township is going to have to look elsewhere to bring the budget under the 2 percent tax levy cap that is mandated by state law.
“If the referendum is not passed by the voters, the tax increase would be capped at 2.93 cents, and an over $2.3 million deficit will have to be made up by drastically reduced municipal services or staff,” Deputy Mayor Mark Sander said in a letter on behalf of Council to Medford taxpayers. “For example, that would equate to 28 of our 43 police officers.”
Whether or not the referendum passes has no bearing on the 22 positions already slated for elimination in 2011.
Those cuts include the loss of the township’s public safety director, two full time clerical employees in township administration, and one full time employee in the recreation department.
The Medford Police Department will lose two police officers and two clerical staff members to the layoffs. The force is being further reduced by the loss of five officers due to retirement, and it will lose two more in the coming months also due to retirement. In addition to the dispatch system being switched to be a part of Burlington County Central Communications for $600,000 in savings, there are also plans to transfer Special Response Team (SWAT) responsibilities to New Jersey State Police, saving another $70,000.
The Medford Fire Division will lose one full time firefighter and three part time firefighters. They’ve also lost one full time firefighter in 2010 due to attrition. In addition, the division is no longer staffing a second ambulance during weekdays with part-time EMT staff members and is discontinuing free monthly community CPR classes for township residents and businesses.
Four full time and four part time seasonal public works employees will lose their jobs due to layoffs. In addition, the department is discontinuing bulk trash pick up and Saturday bulk drop off at the public works garage, which will save $300,000.
Sander said the proposed Medford Crossings project, if approved, would bring in an additional $3 million in revenue for this year. That revenue would close the budget gap and result in a tax rate decrease for Medford residents, he said.
However, the controversial project, which would bring commercial and residential development to Route 70 and Eayrestown Road, has been vehemently opposed by dozens of residents. The project is still in the review and negotiation phase, according to Sander.
The township held a series of community meetings last week intended to give residents information about the proposed tax hike and referendum question that must be passed to approve it.
The referendum question is scheduled to appear on the April 27 school election ballot.
Visit your Medford Sun Spot after the election to find out what voter’s decide.