By Robin Rieger
MEDFORD TOWNSHIP, NJ (CBS) – Police protection in Medford Township is something that homeowners and business owners like Denise Baranowski say they rely on to feel secure.
“There are a lot of nights we’re here and it’s dark. It’s nice knowing that we see a cop car going by,” said Baranowski.
But Township Manager Christopher Schultz says that a more than $5 million budget shortfall in the $18 million 2012 budget will cut officers, as well as employees in other departments.
“We laid off four police officers, and one retiring officer won’t be replaced,” said Schultz.
In 2009, Medford Township had 49 officers, but budget cuts like this one have reduced the force to 28. Outside revenues pay four of them to cover the Lenape Regional School District and the local motor vehicle office.
“Those are numbers we haven’t seen since the 70s. Volume has gone from a few thousand a year to over 50,000 in a year. Even a reduction of five officers is going to compromise public safety,” said Medford Township Police Officers Association President Mark Hunsinger.
Public works employee Dwayne Granger is hoping to keep his job. The proposed budget, according to Schultz, eliminates trash, brush and leaf collection, saving $3 million a year in salaries and equipment. Granger thinks of what being laid off would cost him.
“My wife has heart trouble and diabetes; I need the health insurance. That’s why, 15 years ago, I started working here for $8.25 an hour,” Granger said.
“We’re trying to put a vendor list together,” said Schultz.
Residents can contract their own trash pickup should the budget be approved as is.
“It should be a service, but Medford does not have the money to provide that service now,” said property owner Joe Maggelet.
Even with the proposed cuts, municipal taxes are expected to increase within the 2 percent cap.