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Camden City Council Nixes Tax Increase Proposal

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CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Camden’s city council has to again start trying to figure out how to balance the city budget after rejecting a plan Tuesday that could have brought back about 60 laid-off police and firefighters but also would have raised property taxes 23 percent.

Camden is among the nation’s poorest and most crime-ridden. It’s been in a fiscal crisis for decades, but it’s deepened as tax revenue has declined and the state has cut its aid.

Last month, the city laid off nearly 400 city employees, about one-fourth of all its workers. The cuts were deepest in the police department, which lost nearly half its officers, and the fire department, which lost one-third of its firefighters.

The 23 percent property tax increase that Mayor Dana Redd proposed would have been the first in the city in nearly a decade. The cost would have been about $160 per year for the average homeowner.

That was not an easy sell in a place where residents are fuming about how they’re already getting less for what they pay. There’s also upset over the city’s first property value reassessments in 18 years, which will result in higher taxes for some homeowners—and lower bills for others.

More than 150 people showed up to Tuesday’s council meeting, some of them holding bright yellow signs with hand-lettered messages like, “Mayor stop stepping on me,” The Philadelphia Inquirer and Courier-Post of Cherry Hill reported.

Robert McGee, a 57-year-old lifelong Camden resident, said he’s had enough of the fighting.

“This year I will be leaving this city,” he said. “I’m tired of the fight. We blame the mayor, we blame council, but where this blame actually go?”

The city council sided with the angry residents and voted down the hike by a 6 to 1 vote.

Now, the council and the administration are looking for a new way to balance the budget without such a big tax hike.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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