Almost two weeks ago our administration passed an 8.7% municipal budget increase. This increase happened even with COVID 19 relief money for 2021 and 2022 totaling 6.8 million dollars awarded to Gloucester Township. Wages and capital projects are 2 big factors in our yearly budgets and that is exactly what the COVID relief money was designated for. Only half of the COVID relief money was used this year however and the rest will just sit until next year.
Why leave money sitting while increasing taxes on residents?
I’m sure if you are new to following the way things work in GT you may be wondering why they chose to hold 3.4 million dollars instead of relieving the tax burden on the residents. Our administration told us it was because of uncertainty. They claim we aren’t out to the woods yet with COVID and they may need to use that money next year in case of another shutdown in 2022. I’m no COVID expert and neither is our administration, but if I asked 10 people if they saw another shutdown coming, I think 9 would say no and 1 would be unsure. In other words, I think their excuse was a poor one. Even if somehow, we were all convinced to shut down completely the only way that would happen is with another round of state money being given back to the towns.
The answer to the question above is in the numbers. It’s just not in the numbers you would assume.
2022 is not an election year, but 2023 is and the David Mayer machine does not raise taxes on years when they are vulnerable. They know our memories are short and our dissatisfaction fades as time passes. In other words, they’ve got us figured out.
How well do they know us?
Obviously, they know how we respond the year after a tax increase. They figured this out because we flat out don’t respond. Every other year they raise taxes and every year in between they get reelected. Did you also know they have figured out how to talk to us when they increase our taxes to make it sound like it’s less of a burden than it really is? Imagine your government (the people who work for you) colluding to deceive you. You don’t have to imagine it because it’s happening right in our municipal building.
In case you missed the last council meeting, a resident came forward and broke the news that she overheard a conversation between our mayor and administration talking about the best way to release this year’s budget. They weren’t talking about how to be more responsible in their budgeting process. They were talking about how to make it sound like 8.7% isn’t as bad as we might think it is. They were doing this by manipulating the county numbers because Camden County decreased its taxes this year.
I know the government trying to deceive you isn’t something new. Sadly, it’s more common to distrust the government than it is to trust them. How has that become the norm? Everyone says our government is elected by us and therefore works for us. If they truly did work for us like employees, would we let our employees lie to us?
Let’s hypothetically say Gloucester Township is a business and you own that business. Would you treat losing money and being lied too differently? I think it would be so much more personal and you would treat it differently.
How do we keep our government in check?
We have a group of elected residents who represent us, and those people are called our township council. They are the ones who we elect to ask questions and speak on our behalf. If we are the owners of this hypothetical business, our council members would be the managers we hire to keep the employees honest. Our council members have the privilege of sitting down with our administration and asking questions not just for them our curiosity, but to satisfy any questions we may have as residents.
When does this system fail?
This system fails when your mayor, administration, and council members are all on the same team. This is like when your hypothetical managers start colluding with your dishonest employees.
If you don’t think this is happening, then you aren’t paying attention. Our taxes have gone up 84% since 2010 and no one representing us is asking questions. In fact, after our council found out we were being deceived by our administration they blew it off! They voted to hold half the COVID money and raise taxes without any further questions.
Unlike previous votes, this one went 4-3 in favor of a tax increase. Coincidently the 3 who voted no are up for reelection next year. Trotto is also up for reelection, but I’m sure someone had to be the sacrificial lamb to make sure they hit that majority 4th vote.
Want to fix our government?
You must start by showing up. I don’t mean 40 people show up at one council meeting like they did 2 weeks ago. I mean filling the place and asking questions. If you can’t be there, email your questions. Show them you are paying attention because as far as anyone is concerned, not enough of you are.
When you are finished asking questions from the audience side of the room start thinking about replacing our council members with better representation. Run in the Democratic primary against them in 2023 or contact the GT Republican Committee and beat them in the General election. We know enough people in both parties to help you get started.