Last year Gloucester Township faced over a 10% tax increase for the 2020 budget year. That lead the team at RestoreGT.com to propose their own budget to council. The RestoreGT Team’s budget proved that by just doing more responsible budgeting, that 10.5% increase probably only had to be 3.5%. Keep in mind, our budget made no cuts to any services or salaries.
As some of you may know, our budget was labeled “Irresponsible” by our township administrator Tom Cardis.
Was it irresponsible?
It wasn’t irresponsible at all. In fact, some of the changes the 2020 Citizen’s Budget proposed were adopted by the administration. Unfortunately the administration didn’t adopt all of our ideas so we still wound up getting hit with a 9.5% tax increase for 2020. The data however, shows the 2020 Citizen’s Budget came in closer to actual than the administration’s budget.
We are back at it in 2021.
It’s a new year and we are back at it again with the the 2021 Introduced Budget. What we found is almost a 9.5% reduction in the 2021 Budget! With our budget, you’d basically get your 2020 tax increase back in the way of a 2021 reduction, but that’s not what the GT administration has in mind. As of right now, Gloucester Township is only looking to take on the 2021 Budget with a 0% increase. Unfortunately for now, that also means there will be no decrease in your municipal taxes this year. Below is the summary for 2021.
It’s an election year though..
If you watched the first Council Meeting this month you’ll recall Dan Hutchison mention that he will be looking over the Introduced Budget along with Carolyn Grace and Michelle Winters. Those 3 names matter because they 3 of them are running for re-election this year. Our guess is that they might find a little bit of savings somewhere in this year’s budget and get is back some of the 9.5% they took from us last year. We are fairly positive it’s not going to be the whole 9.5% though. Either way, overtaxing us last year to make themselves look good during an election year should make us all feel a little used.
Getting back to business
The letter below is being submitted to council today, April 23rd.
Members of Gloucester Township Council,
It is welcome news for the residents of our town that the 2021 GT Introduced Budget includes no increase to the municipal property tax rate.
To ensure that our municipal government unfailingly serves its residents, the actions of our township must continuously be scrutinized and questioned…whether a tax increase is imposed or not. So it is good to know that a group of GT Council members is currently working to analyze the 2021 GT Budget before it is adopted next month.
At the same time, again this year, a small group of informed GT citizens is working in parallel to present another version of the 2021 GT Budget. I would like to extend a sincere invitation for our two groups to work together in an effort to produce the optimal budget for GT.
Listed below is a first set of observations and questions on the 2021 GT Budget.
- Please explain the $3 million budgeted revenue line item General Capital Fund Balance that is included in the Introduced Budget.
- What is the status of GT’s $892K land parcel sale to the GTHA? This $892K was expected to be additional 2021 revenue. This transaction is between two related parties, two motivated parties, so one would not expect this transaction to linger on as it has. There must be other, undisclosed factors that are delaying the finalization of this sale. Please ascertain and disclose the reasons for this delay.
- 2021 Salaries and Wages appear to be over-budgeted. When comparing 2020 actual expenditure to the 2021 Introduced Budget, salaries and wages are being budgeted to increase 6.4% ($1671K) in 2021. This large budgeted increase becomes even more unlikely to be accurate considering that, just by the way the pay periods fall for hourly employees, there are 26 pay periods in 2021, compared to 27 pay periods in 2020 (a 3.7% decrease in 2021). Even when 2020 actual wage spending is adjusted for lower staffing levels in the Parks & Rec Dept, 2021 looks to be several hundred thousand dollars over-budgeted. Please review the comparative data below.
- 2021 ‘Other Expenses’ also appear to be over-budgeted. Please review the comparative data below.
- Every year, GT collects more property tax revenue than budgeted…an average of $679K per year over the last four years. Please consider amending the 2021 GT Budget to account for these tax collections.
- Every year, GT collects miscellaneous revenue items that are not budgeted. In 2020, GT collected $406K for things like cell tower leases, billboard rent, police outside employ fees, tax liens, maintenance liens, and many other recurring revenue items. Please consider amending the 2021 GT Budget to account for these items.
- There are two large items with a balance in the GT CURRENT FUND.
$2321K identified as APPROPRIATION RESERVES
$538 in ‘Remaining Balance’ of Surplus
Since these funds are not designated as being held for a defined, specified purpose, consideration should be given to returning these funds to taxpayers by applying these balances to 2021 revenue.
As a reminder, $7.6 million will granted to GT in 2021 and 2022 by the American Rescue Act.
Of course, the GT Administration may very well have legitimate reasons and explanations for the figures in the Introduced Budget. Also, it is possible that the Administration will disagree will the figures that have been presented here. Sincere conversations are welcomed and encouraged to improve mutual understanding.
Here are the actual worksheets we used to come up with the budget numbers.
Please come out and join us Monday, April 26th at 7:30 PM for the reading of the budget during the council meeting.