Just days after Evesham Township Council met on May 5 to explore its COVID-19 mitigation options, Mayor Jaclyn Veasy issued a letter to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. In it, she addresses the need for townships like Evesham to receive current or future funding approved by federal legislators for economic support and stabilization.
The letter is as follows:
Dear Governor Murphy,
Today I write to respectfully highlight Evesham Township’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, especially as it relates to any current or future funding approved by federal legislators for the economic support and stabilization of municipalities across our country.
Evesham’s efforts to protect our community’s health have been repeatedly commended as proactive by our local safety officials, municipal professionals, members of the media and residents across our township. However, if Evesham Township is to continue setting a proactive example for municipalities in our area, then we must also begin to make the difficult choices that give our municipality the best chance to protect not just our physical health, but our financial health as well.
In just the two-month window since this emergency began to impact New Jersey, our municipality has already experienced a precipitous drop in revenues from our municipal court, construction office, licensing fees and loss of play at our municipally-owned golf course. Adding to our challenges, this unprecedented loss of revenue could be further compound by decreases in our tax collection rate in the months to come, especially given record unemployment figures.
While other municipalities might choose to bide their time in confronting these challenges, Evesham Township has once again chosen to be proactive. Our township has already frozen all discretionary spending and reduced our operating expenditures, in addition to ceasing all non-essential capital projects. We also continue to meticulously track any COVID-19 related expenses for potential FEMA reimbursement, pursue all grant opportunities, identify shared service opportunities and examine the immediate and future use of any surplus funds.
Perhaps most difficult of all, we also recently entered labor negotiations with our employee Union representative to discuss the reduction of hours and wages across all levels for a period of time. Although all employees would retain their health benefits, and many would reach or exceed their current salary due to additional payments through the CARES act, this is still an extremely difficult course of action we must present to the phenomenal employees who have served our township so diligently since this crisis began.
These are not steps we ever expected to take, nor are they steps we would ever want to take. Yet they are steps we must be willing to take to bolster the financial health of our township and place as little burden as possible on our residents during these incredibly trying times.
When the time comes to offer economic support to local municipalities, it is my sincerest hope that our state’s executives and legislators do not forget Evesham Township’s foresight and courage to make the tough decisions sooner, rather than later.
I thank you for this consideration and look forward to working with your Administration to ensure Evesham Township and all of New Jersey will recover from this crisis stronger than ever.
Mayor of The Township of Evesham