Maintaining preschool a bad idea
By JUDY CRUZ MURPHY • For the Courier-Post • September 4, 2008
Municipalities are facing difficult times trying to cut costs and save money to prevent tax increases. Additionally, finding new ways to maintain basic services is becoming harder to achieve.
During the 2007 budget meetings in Gloucester Township, Democratic council members voted against Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton's 11-cent tax increase and voted for a 5-cent tax increase. All departments, services and personnel were scrutinized to cut taxes.
Council President Glen Bianchini pursued a developer to buy a section of township-owned land (the Nike missle base) for redevelopment. The sale of the property is needed to help keep the tax increase at 5 cents. The Courier-Post even wrote an editorial in December 2007 urging the mayor "to join the Democrats in trying to get control of township spending."
It's budget time again. Once again, the mayor presents a budget that is double digits and once again council demands a single-digit tax increase. But this year, it's not only Gloucester Township looking to cut costs, but also the entire U.S. economy.
The result has been municipalities shouldering more of the financial burden and pushing this burden onto residents. We are being told to expect cuts in services and witness increases in taxes.
Council wants the mayor to look into every facet of the township to cut waste and consolidate programs, departments and personnel. The mayor has done exactly what the council requested. We are on a four-day workweek, which is not beneficial for full-time working residents, but we understand the reason.
A preschool program run by the township was cut because it had consistently lost money during the last five years, despite a tuition increase in 2007. So explain to me why a money-losing program was reinstated by the cost-conscious council?
"Hard choices need to be made," Bianchini has reiterated over the last year. It's the mantra repeated to sports groups looking for additional fields for practice, groups seeking funding for parks, recreation, sidewalks and increased police patrols in neighborhoods.
As a working mother with children and no family in the area, I'd be the first to say families need safe, affordable child care. However, not at the expense of the entire community. I'd rather have my tax dollars pay for more police patrolling the streets or sidewalks so children don't need to walk in the streets, than toward a preschool.
At a time when families are struggling to keep jobs, pay bills and keep a roof over their heads, I cannot fathom how the council would keep this program. Council demanded the mayor be fiscally responsible.
A council chamber filled with pleading parents must have been very difficult to deal with. But like many others who come before the council with requests, the whole pie must be assessed, not just a slice. The end result must benefit the whole.
This is one time the council should have supported the mayor. It is her job to look at the entire pie and she did exactly what the council requested: save township money. Hard choices needed to be made for the benefit of the entire community and the council has not done this.
The writer lives in Erial.