Grassroots Residents' Group Addresses Municipality Cap Spending Limits
Saturday, August 18, 2012 • 9:33am
To the Editor:
I read with great interest the story published in the New Jersey Herald on July 25, 2012. I am 1 of the "committee of 5" who is involved in the discussion of this issue.
We initiated our petition and later filed suit because the Byram Municipal Council has found a clever way, for the past 10 years, to manipulate the NJ Statute which provides a "cap" (limit) on the annual increase of a municipality's spending......TAXES, which are then used to pay for that municipal spending. (It is interesting to note that the most recent ordinance to disregard the cap limit was approved by a 3 - 2 vote with the 2 rookie council members dissenting.) We are absolutely not concerned with a budget. Our petition addresses the cap, nothing more, and therefore, is in full compliance with the provisions for petitioning for redress under the Faulkner Act, under which the Byram municipal government is organized. The results of the Council's ordinance, raising the cap above the 2-1/2% maximum established by the Legislature, is a deceitful tactic of the Council getting their hands deeper into the pocket of every Byram taxpayer. Had we been made aware of some unforeseen event or an emergency which necessitated additional revenue, we would not be taking issue with the Council. It would appear that the additional funds would be a "slush fund" to be used at the Council's discretion. I question whether we can afford that luxury at this time.
New Jersey law has directed that a budget is not subject to petition and we respect that. The Council and their attorney's repeated insistence that our petition addresses a budget, rather than a questionable action with the cap, is nothing more than an attempt to direct attention away from the primary issue we are raising. Since the Byram Council, under advisement of its attorney, has refused to certify and has rejected our properly executed petition, we are seeking that the Court invokes the petition / referendum provision of the cap law and allows the voters of Byram to decide whether or not our representatives on the Council should be held accountable and responsible for the action they have taken in raising the cap above and beyond the legislated maximum. Our petition calls for a referendum to be held, to give the voters the opportunity to make that determination, and nothing more. The Council, by its actions, would deny the citizens that opportunity.
It is my understanding that similar actions are being taken by citizens in other municipalities throughout New Jersey. It is no surprise that their lobby, the League of Municipalities, has been made aware of what we and others are doing. We expect that Byram and the other towns and cities around the state will use every resource at their disposal. We have presented a threat to their insatiable appetite to collect more money without constraint.
We have joined with other citizens in demanding that our elected representatives, on all levels of government, conduct themselves to the highest standards of integrity, honesty and dedication to their constituents.
Nelson A Drobness