Thursday, April 25, 2013

Scheneck, D’Agostino and Moschella - Resign Now!

The financial mismanagement of the Roxbury School Board continues…
For example, did you know that the Roxbury School Board hired yet another administrator to “educate” district employees on how to save money through energy conservation?   However, it was recently confirmed that this program, instead of saving taxpayer money, actually lost tens of thousands of dollars!
Did you know that the board is threatening to outsource our district cafeteria staff, many of whom only make 10 to 12 dollars per hour?  The cafeteria is a department that has the potential to pay for itself, but leave it to this board to target some of the most underpaid employees in the entire district rather than owning up to their lack of oversight of the previous administrative team who was asleep at the wheel when they were supposed to be monitoring the monthly financial status of the food service department.
Did you know that during the last several school board meetings, this board could not even approve simple employee travel expenses or accept resignations because there are so many board members who must recuse themselves due to financial conflicts of interest?
Now, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education has ordered the Roxbury School Board to pay the legal fees of a prior school board member who was the victim of slanderous and false accusations of the board majority and prior administration.  Roxbury School Board President Carol Sheneck, Vice President Terry D’Agostino and prior Board President John Moschella would like you to believe that they had no part in the vicious political and legal attacks that were financed with the your tax dollars.  However, it is now clear that these three cost the taxpayers of Roxbury hundreds of thousands of dollars in senseless legal bills.
Aren’t you tired of your tax dollars being held hostage by a few elite politicians who say they are here for the children, but instead frivolously squander your tax dollars which they are entrusted to spend wisely?
Today, we ask you to join us in calling for the resignation of Scheneck, D’Agostino and Moschella.  Figuratively and literally, the taxpayers of Roxbury cannot afford their careless leadership anymore.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Doing More With Less In the New Princeton


By Liz Lempert

Local governments everywhere are faced with a tough challenge: how to manage increasing costs — especially for health care and pensions — without cutting back on important services or burdening residents with always-ballooning property taxes.

Before our historic merger at the beginning of this year, Prince­ton Borough and Prince­ton Township did what many other communities have been doing to get by: We shrank the size of staff (by nearly 20 percent through attrition over the past seven years), we cut back on services and we dipped into surplus.

For a few years, those efforts helped to stem the tide of rising property taxes. But if we continued down that road, eventually our surplus would dry up and we’d cease being able to provide the services that our residents want and expect. Worse, we would face the prospect of raising taxes and decreasing services.

Consolidation of the two Prince­tons paved the path for a better way.

With a single government, we are now delivering better services at a lower cost. At the end of three years, when consolidation is fully phased in, we expect to save approximately $3 million annually — a conservative estimate.

For this year, we are already exceeding projected savings by 40 percent.

A merged Prince­ton is better. Trash collection is now offered to all residents. Before consolidation, township residents had to pay for private hauling. The new, leaner public works department now has the staff to refurbish the benches along Nassau Street in the downtown. A more efficient deployment of equipment and manpower has also resulted in quicker snow removal and cleaner streets.

Service has also expanded under our consolidated police force. Through attrition, we have reduced the size of the combined force from 60 to 54 officers, with a force of 51 officers expected by 2015. Savings represent $2 million of the $3 million we expect to save annually.

When we had two separate departments, we needed two chiefs and two administrations. Now with one department, we have a single command structure and more flexibility in deploying officers.

Surprisingly, despite the smaller force, we are putting more cops on the street. Since Jan. 1, many have remarked that our police are more visible than ever. The concern raised during the consolidation debate — that combining and shrinking the force would lead to reductions in police services — has largely disappeared.

Restructuring the police department has also enabled us to reinstate a dedicated safe neighborhoods unit. Community policing — working cooperatively with residents to proactively identify and resolve issues — is core to the department’s mission, and every officer is trained in community policing techniques.

By having a dedicated unit, the force can spend more time to develop relationships with residents, schools, businesses and community groups. The new unit recently launched a resident survey to identify areas of concern in the community to improve service.

One of the remaining symbols of the past is the old township and borough police cars, which we chose not to repaint with the new logo to save money. They are a visible reminder that we are not erasing our past by consolidating. Rather, by combining resources, we have found a way to reuse and repurpose.

Consolidation has moved Prince­ton from being forced to choose between diminishing services or higher taxes to a promising future with opportunities to enhance services and save money.
I encourage other communities in New Jersey to look at Prince­ton’s experience and consider whether consolidation might work for them, too.

Liz Lempert is mayor of Prince­ton.