Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 9
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Finance Advocacy Task Force Advises Borough to Look Closer at Expenses

Dilshanie Perera

Speaking as a representative of the Citizens Finance Advocacy Task Force, Nick Karp made suggestions to Borough Council last week regarding what they can do to begin mitigation of the financial difficulties the municipality faces.

Strategies suggested by Mr. Karp include creating a longer term municipal budget, reorganizing compensation packages, reaching out to employees and unions, setting aside funds for legal and arbitration costs, and establishing connections with neighboring municipalities.

Governor Christie’s decision to declare a fiscal “state of emergency” in New Jersey will “result in the transfer of the burden to Princeton,” Mr. Karp cautioned.

While the ad hoc group comprised of local residents, business owners, and Council members continues to analyze spending data, Mr. Karp noted that in the meantime the Borough may be able to work toward cost savings by taking action on the suggested measures.

Devising a three-to-five-year municipal budget, and making the Council’s long-term goals for Borough finances clear to the public was the first item on the task force’s plan, with Mr. Karp noting that “ultimately the public has to understand the baseline and reasoning that the Council itself uses for its own planning to participate effectively in the upcoming difficult choices facing the Borough.”

He also recommended that Council adopt a resolution “seeking convergence with private sector compensation packages in all future labor negotiations,” adding that “no negotiator should be authorized to accept any agreement that further increases the current deviation from private sector norms without explicit, public discussion by Council.”

Emphasizing that any efforts to reach out to unions employees and non-union workers should not be viewed as punitive, Mr. Karp suggested that “ultimately, everyone will be happier with a full complement of fairly compensated people than with layoffs and diminished services that will otherwise be needed.”

Setting aside monies for litigation that may arise because of these strategies was another point underscored by the advisory body, as was delegating responsibility to one or more Council members to reach out to neighboring municipalities in order to “develop a united front that will be necessary to influence the county and state.”

“Given recent events, the Council should adopt a statement encouraging Governor Christie, as part of his recent (and wholly unprecedented) declaration of fiscal emergency, to give Princeton and other municipalities impacted by statewide cutbacks the flexibility needed to adapt creatively to these new, statewide, fiscal realities,” the task force noted in their letter to Council. “We have a real opportunity here,” Mr. Karp said.

Resident and member of the Princeton Senior Resource Center Board Sylvia Stengle remarked after Mr. Karp’s presentation that there has been some panic among seniors regarding being able to remain in town, given rising property tax rates. “Our future is at stake,” she said.

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