Blairstown is running out of money. This point was made pretty clear at the April 25th Blairstown Township Committee Workshop meeting. You can see the full slide deck here. Each year, the budget runs about $4 million just to keep the lights on, so to speak. We get about $3M from the energy receipts tax and plug the $1 million dollar hole with fund balance reserves, which are fast being depleted. None of the money comes from local taxes because we just so happen to live in one of the handful of communities in New Jersey that doesn’t have a municipal tax.
That’s right. There are no municipal taxes in Blairstown. Period. Instead, our bills have been paid for by a power company for decades on end. But the well has been drying up over the years as others have tapped into the same resource and we need to look for other resources to keep our township going.
During the meeting, the Township leaders laid out a picture of declining revenues in the face of increasing need. For example, there was one slide showing the need for more than $1.5 million in road repairs, above and beyond the pot holes we drive over every day. There was also mention of the need for a new fire truck, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then there was another slide that spoke to the desire to increase local policing to run a 24-hour coverage at an additional cost of about $414,000. We learned that this decision would be left to the voters in a referendum in the November election.
What was ironic here was that while it was clear that Blairstown doesn’t have enough revenue to pay for what we already have, suddenly the conversation shifted to a debate on whether or not to have a 24-hour police force. The fact that we don’t have the money to pay our “normal” bills was left behind.
This will prove to be an interesting discussion in the months to come as we figure out as a community what to do about the impending budget shortfall. What was plain to see is that the energy receipts money tree has lost its bloom. Soon we will all have a lot more “skin in the game” as we pick up the tab and begin the make investment decisions that affect the future of our community.
The big question is, when will we run into a deficit scenario? The graph above shows years past. What will the graph show for five years hence? That’s a question for the next town hall meeting.