The Gazette will be reviewing local government spending
In recent weeks, Gazette published an article regarding the town being awarded $1.3 million in federal novel coronavirus (COVID-19) aid funding. As of our report of June 9, Mayor Stephen DiDonato said this funding has not yet been received by the town.
We also recently reported on $3 million in spending measures included in the new town budget.
There are some expenditures we already know should be eliminated in favor of priority infrastructure spending. See our second editorial on page 6 this week.
The era of spending local taxpayer money just to spend money, on projects that could be better funded by private dollars, grants or other means, are at an end.
After what we’ve all just been through—and face it, we’re still going through it today—I can’t believe I have to write those words. How fast people forget how bad things were, particularly economically.
Business owners remember how bad it was, and is, though. Many of them are some of the largest taxpayers in this town. They know what it was like to do without, to struggle to make a payroll and to fight to keep their businesses’ doors open in lean months.
A lot of what local government spends your tax dollars on goes to the right place. The driver of the trash truck and the trash truck itself that picks up your garbage each week, is an example. The cop on patrol and the police vehicle he or she is driving is another.
Recent expenditures being made to improve roads, parks, municipal water and sewer plants and hire staff all have merit, because they are part of a plan to improve the town. So is funding a portion of the MainStreet Hammonton budget, for their continuing effort to revitalize downtown Hammonton. That revitalization effort has made outstanding progress, but there is still much work to be done.
Where the mayor and council veer off course, however, is when they spend local taxpayer money for line items that could be funded through private means, fundraising or other methods.
That practice should end, and it should end right now. The council’s first allegiance must be to the taxpayer. There are many projects that could benefit from local taxpayer funding. The money should be spent wisely.
After all, if we’ve learned anything from recent history, it’s that the world can change in an instant. Can we really afford to spend taxpayer money on unnecessary projects?
Mayor Stephen DiDonato, Councilman Joseph Giralo, Councilman Thomas Gribbin, Councilman Stephen Furgione, Councilman Jonathan Oliva, Councilman William Olivo and Councilman Sam Rodio: You are the stewards of Hammonton’s hard-earned local taxpayer dollars. We trust you to do the right thing when you make decisions about how local taxpayer money is spent.
Each of you must look at yourselves in the mirror and ask yourselves: Is this spending I’m approving really in the best interests of the local taxpayers? Or am I serving another interest here?
I’m not your CFO. You pay Robert Scharle for that job. You may want to give him a call and ask him what he thinks of some of the spending items the town has coming up this year. After that discussion with your professional, maybe council members should speak with each other and see if there are some spending items that need to be frozen, or maybe dropped entirely.
In the meantime, The Gazette will be looking at all local government spending and presenting our own thoughts about the matter for the public’s review on these pages.
Like I said, the era of spending money just to spend money is over—it’s time to be more cautious with the local taxpayers’ funds.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.