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Letter From Holmdel's Mayor: Tackling the $2.5M Budget Gap

Mayor Patrick Impreveduto responds to suggestions from residents, and talks about the long-term plan to bring the municipal budget back into balance.

Dear Resident,

Recently you received a letter regarding the need for the Holmdel Township Committee to close a $2.5 million funding gap in the municipal budget, and the options being considered by the Committee. That letter and the media coverage of our budget issues have generated a tremendous amount of feedback. This feedback will be very helpful in determining the course taken by the Committee and it is greatly appreciated.

Many of you have suggested spending cuts – typically identifying 10 – 12% as a target - as a way of closing the budget deficit.   Over the past few years, in an effort to keep property taxes low despite decreased state aid and major cost increases,  the Township Committee has in fact made significantly deeper cuts than those suggested. We reduced our workforce by 29 people - a 22% reduction - including reducing the police force by 8 officers. We shared services with other municipalities and the county, and we have merged or eliminated functions.  Our Public Employee unions have stepped up, making contract concessions and providing give-backs of pay and benefits.  Unlike many municipalities, our public employees do not receive lifetime health benefits upon retirement.

If it were possible to cut our way to a balanced budget rather than raise taxes or sell assets, and do it in a way which would not have a major negative impact on our town and the services we provide, believe me we would do it. Unfortunately, there is no way to do that.

Simply put, the major cost reductions have been done already. We could not cut $2.5 million, or a significant portion of that amount, without decimating the police department and the Township staff. All non-essential departments, would have to be eliminated. Essentially we would be cutting services to the bone and putting public safety in jeopardy.

We will continue to pursue efficiencies and evaluate staffing levels. But again, cutting our way out of this budget gap is not a viable option.

Our long-term goal is to move to a point of balanced, sustainable revenues and operations over the next 3-5 years, (88% of our tax revenue come from our residents while only 12%come from commercial) while maintaining Holmdel’s uniquely desirable characteristics. This will include effective redevelopment of the Lucent site, compatible and high quality commercial and retail development in appropriate zones, and continued organizational improvement and efficiency.  We are already taking steps to achieve this point: working with the owners of the Lucent property, establishing a more business-friendly development process for quality projects, and joining in County and State economic development activities.

Implementing this 3-5 year plan, however, might require a need to exceed the state mandated 2% property tax cap this year. It is our firm belief that if this action were to come to fruition it will alleviate the need for us to exceed the cap for a significant period of time.

However, if this is our choice, as part of our 3-5 year plan to balance revenues and expenses, we will ask you the residents of Holmdel to approve a referendum to exceed the budget cap in April

We will continue to pursue all available options and consider your input as we move forward.

Thank you.

Pat Impreveduto

Mayor

Holmdel Township

Bobby February 22, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Please open up the budget so we can see why other cuts are not possible. We must make spending match revenue and not vice-versa. Another sizeable tax increase will be intolerable for residents who are willing to accept lower levels of service.
Deannie February 23, 2012 at 12:23 AM
I don't believe this is an 'either or' situation....we should not sell land nor do we have to raise taxes. Yes, we should cut non-essential services. We are willing to accept lower levels of service. Our quality of life won't suffer. A few ideas: eliminate all leaf and branch collections...we (homeowners) took care of this by ourselves in years past and we can do so again; we don't need a huge commercial, expensive street sweeper to "dust" our streets...we can clean up in front of our properties; turn off those electricity-guzzling night lights at the H. S. when there is no night time game; have private grass cutting/landscape services take care of the grass cutting on twp. properties.like schools, along roads, etc. , instead of using township employees and expensive township equipment and fuel...Wall Twp. did this and saved a considerable amount of money. Please consult with other towns to see how they cut expenses. Please listen to the suggestions of township residents. Every little bit helps and adds up.
Mike February 23, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Deannie, if I'm not mistaken, the town annually bids out a contract for lawn cutting services on township properties to private contractors and it is not done by employees of the town (or with equipment owned and maintained by the town). Maybe I am thinking of another service but I recall reading this in the past.
Mike February 23, 2012 at 01:40 PM
If the town has truly cut expenses as far as they can go and they embark on a 3-5 year plan to increase township revenues through the redevelopment of Lucent and other new commercial ratables on Route 34 & 35, then my vote will be NO against the referendum to raise taxes. I would instead prefer to sell off land each year for the next 3-5 years to cover the annual budget gap. While open space is a big reason that we moved to Holmdel, I do not believe that selling off parcels of land each year for the next five years for purposes of residential or commercial development would cause such a material impact that Holmdel would lose it's charm. Yes, selling off the land may lead to increased students in the school system but I believe any additional costs should be able to be covered within the annual 2% budget increase cap. If in a few years development is coming along and ratables are increasing and we are closing the budget gap, then I might be able to stomach a reasonable tax increase above the 2% cap. But, I am not willing to pay a 25% tax increase in our municipal taxes (even if it is only $400 for the average homeowner). That is just unacceptable and speaks of years of mismanagement in this town. Put me down for a NO against the referendum.
Tony Orsini February 23, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Deannie, would you like to run for TC? You have the right idea.
Jeff Gollin February 23, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I'm guessing that the root causes of the budget shortfall were not intended (nor expected) by the TC or financial staff, but instead were caused by an lethargic economy (i.e. funding cuts and lower-than-expected property tax revenues). Instead of pointing fingers, let's start from there: Let's view this as a one or two year emergency condition that (with prudent financial oversight) will eventually stabilize. The logical (& least painful) solution would be the combination of (1) cutting or postponing expenditures on a few expendible programs and restoring them when the crisis has passed and (2) levying a temporary (one time or God forbid, two time) local tax increase to be removed when conditions leveled out. Bottom line - temporary problems call for temporary solutions (i.e. you don't do something irrevocable - like selling off land - to cover a temporary budget shortfall).
Martin B. Brilliant February 23, 2012 at 03:30 PM
How many times do you have to hear the Mayor say it? There are only two ways to balance the upcoming budget: sell land or raise taxes. Next year there might be other options, but that's your choice for now.
Tony Orsini February 23, 2012 at 04:06 PM
He can say it as many times as he likes (along with "I really don't want to sell the land), but if he put in the effort Larry Fink did, there would be a different result. Once 1 TC used surplus funds to cover a defecit, they all did (some simply did not exhaust the funds). MARK MY WORDS once we start selling land, it will continue as long as this town has a Republican administration.
Tony Orsini February 23, 2012 at 04:07 PM
P.S. would you be willing to sign a recall petition so we can prove you wrong?
Frank Di Paolo February 23, 2012 at 05:29 PM
It appears that our good mayor is not up to the task at hand. He is clearly in opposition to the will of the residents of Holmdel. He should step aside and turn the reins of leadership over to someone who is capable of making tough decisions. He refuses to accept that raising taxes is not an option and clearly selling assets is not the only alternative. We will no longer tolerate "tax and spend politics." The town should hire an independent accounting firm to cut expenses in order to cover the shortfall.
Jeff Rossi February 23, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I agree with Bobby and Deannie above. Let's see the proposed budget so we can offer thoughtful suggestions as opposed to random thoughts about cuts. Yes, it will likely create a barrage of "suggestions", but that's the price of engaging the public - and to me it's the right way to run the town. We have an awful lot of intelligent people in town and I'd like to think that there can be contributions that would help pave the way for a semi-palatable solution. That said, if there are no more cuts to be made, let's see what the town admins see. In my professional life in the private sector, "we can't cut anymore" is not an answer if the organization needs to reduce additional expenses. You find a way to cut more and manage expectations about what you can deliver. Personally, I can stomach temporary tax assessments better than I can land sales.
Tony Orsini February 23, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I've just got to say this: some of you folks have added immensely to this discussion. Where are you when I am looking for candidates? Party labels are superfluous at the municipal level. It's all about issues. Please consider stepping forward for your town. I have a wonderful group of folks waiting and ready to embrace you.

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