As recently reported, it appears that Jackson municipal officials have finalized a plan to minimize planned layoffs although seven employees will be laid off. It would appear that the Mayor and Township Council, with the cooperation of three unions, have found a way to reduce the budget appropriations from the proposed $39.08 million to a proposed $38.58 million, a reduction of over $500,000. A significant portion of these funds were obtained by recalculating salaries and benefits based on the June headcount rather than the December 2010 headcount when the budget was first prepared, increasing the tax levy and union concessions. They are to be congratulated for this accomplishment although I guess the proof is in the pudding.
One of the proposed cuts was to Fuel and Petroleum which was reduced by $25,000 to $450,000. Spending for fuel and petroleum in 2009 and 2010 respectively was approximately $446k and $430k. According to a report I heard on the radio, fuel costs were about $1 per gallon higher than last year. Whether we are part of a purchasing consortium or not, fuel costs are up and it remains questionable if this budget number is attainable.
Electricity is budgeted at $610,000. Spending for electricity in 2009 and 2010 respectively was approximately $617k and $619k.
Street lighting is budgeted at $324,000. Spending for street lighting in 2009 and 2010 respectively was approximately $331k and $326k.
Then there is the pink elephant sitting in the corner. We have an overall unfunded liability of approximately $2 million for unused sick days, vacation days, personal days, compensatory time, or other absence time which was authorized as part labor agreements which are paid to employees upon separation from the Township. It was this liability that made the layoffs so costly and difficult to understand.
A cursory examination of other budget accounts would support statements from the Township Council that they have cut down to the bone. In fact, they may have even gone further than what might be considered fiscally prudent and responsible. There is absolutely no fat in this budget and everything needs to go right for the Township to meet the 2011 budget. Without tight fiscal management control by all department heads, this budget will not be met.
Township officials have been charged with trying to balance the budget on the backs of labor unions. In reality this budget has been balanced on the backs of the taxpayers who will now pay more in taxes. We also have deferred, once again, numerous projects that need to be done to provide the services that the residents of Jackson deserve. You can only defer equipment purchases so long before the equipment is simply no longer repairable. This budget does not correct the fiscal mistakes of the past and will only buy us time until we need to face these problems again in 2012. Unless there are major concessions by the labor unions the proposed layoffs in 2011 will only become reality in 2012. What we saw in 2011 was only a skirmish; 2012 will be the real fight.
Yes, municipal officials have done the best they can in accordance with budget law, perhaps, too much.