Watch that spending
We appreciate the work and effort that went into the zero tax increase and zero increases for water and sewer that were announced at the May 24 council meeting. In the year following a pandemic, it is an outstanding achievement for a municipal government to keep increases level.
At the same time, a word of caution: while revenues continue to come in, helping to defray the costs to local taxpayers, the council must also watch its spending.
Whether it’s a person, a business or a town government, the phrase “it’s not what you make, it’s what you spend” must always be considered at budget time, and all year. Just because local government can spend money on something it wants doesn’t mean it has to spend that money. Needs should always come before wants when it comes to spending local taxpayer dollars.
Our concern is that the council may be lulled into a false sense of security because of rising revenues and lower debt and miss the dangers of spending on unnecessary items or personnel. Council members need to be vigilant and make sure that new truck or employee that is being paid for today doesn’t become a burden to taxpayers later.
During the council meeting, we noted two separate statements by members of council. The first was by Mayor Stephen DiDonato, who is running this year as a member of Hammonton First.
“Basically, what we have is a zero increase to the taxpayers. We have, over the next year, we’re going to build the police force to 34 members. We have additional patrol cars for the police and their equipment. There is money for a new phone system for town hall,” DiDonato said.
The second statement was made during the meeting by Councilman Sam Rodio, who is also a member of Hammonton First. He is not running for reelection this year. He made his views on the council’s spending—particularly regarding infrastructure projects outlined during the meeting that included more than $200,000 in fees to town engineer Adams, Rehmann and Heggan in a single meeting—clear.
“For months, because of COVID, we didn’t spend many dollars, but we talked about this, month after month, in different committee meetings. We want to move forward now. Yeah, we’re spending a lot of money here tonight, but if you look back at a lot of council meetings, there were a lot of nights where I know I didn’t have any action items, and there were a lot of different ones, I’m sure, where Steven [Furgione] didn’t either. One thing I will tell you: if we spend dollars for the town, we’re going to spend them as wisely as we can,” Rodio said.
Watch that spending, town council. The tax increase may be zero in this election year for the mayor, but we’re concerned about the tax impact on the years following 2021.