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Our Position on the following topics:

Subject:  City of Cape May 2020 Budget    4/8/20  

Cape May City Council has wisely postponed their final budget hearing and public comment until their next Work Session meeting of Tuesday May 5.  It is expected to be an online virtual meeting just like this week.

As a resort community our economic livelihood is based on vacation and tourist revenues.  Beach Tags, Parking Meter Revenue and Room Occupation Tax are directly impacted by outside influences that the City cannot control.  The virus impact will alter our financial structure, and the City must develop a plan for dealing with these changes.  A carefully developed budget plan for 2020 will determine our financial stability.  One approach council is considering is to make no advance budget adjustments and just modify spending as the year evolves. The Tax Payers Association (TPA) believes a conservative financial approach must be in place to recognize the potential revenue losses and impact to the business and residential communities which directly affects the City revenues.

City leadership must establish a budget priority of reductions, limitations and terminations to secure 2020 and 2021. In the event the virus health problems expand, not only will the tourism season suffer greatly but many taxpayers may be forced to defer paying their bills including real estate taxes and even water and sewer bills.  The TPA recommends the City seek a stand-by financial safety-net or Line of Credit from one or multiple lending sources.  Now is the time for these important protections to be put in place, and hopefully never needed.   The leadership and courage to make essential hard choice decisions will protect our economic and real estate tax stability.  Compassion for city employees and their families, all taxpayers, and citizens must be the priority…as is a reasonable budget plan.

We understand many of the suggested modifications below are being considered by Council but formal agreement should be implemented:

  • Ask each Department Head to review their budget for significant reductions.  The severity of the virus may also require reductions in staff, new hiring freeze, and consideration to how work assignment adjustments may be needed.
  •  Cancel all wage increases, and overtime for all departments.
  •  Delay all promotions for 2020.  Initiate discussions with our City Unions representatives that certain events may necessitate layoffs.
  •  Cancel or freeze all non-essential purchases and replacement of vehicles.
  •  Reduce the scale of part time summer employment of police, public works, lifeguards and non-essential personnel.
  •  Delay the Public Safety Building, Library, and A.M.E. Church projects until 2021 and all their associated costs.  We do however encourage projects already started to be completed such as the Convention Hall Annex Building improvements.  Since the Public Safety Building may be postponed, we do suggest reasonable expense to secure safe and healthy housing for Fire Dept. personnel, such as trailers, nearby available accommodations and even improvements to the current building.
  •  The TPA supports the Sewell Tract as Open Space however the $85,000 request by the Concerned Citizens can’t be afforded at this time.
  •  Cancel the Jitney Transportation service.
  •  Review for modification all summer entertainment contracts, for Convention Hall and Rotary Park Concerts and the financial contracts for payment schedules. The lack of Tourism this summer may require the cancellation of all concert plans and related spending.
  •  Review for reduction and modification of legal, consulting, engineering and professional fees.
  •  Consider a moratorium on building projects with possible adjustment in scheduling of the zoning and construction offices.
  • Advise all commissions and committees that all expenditures must first be approved by the City Manager.
  •  Limit City participation and commitment to provide free services and personnel for local events.

Essential projects that we believe should move forward:

  •  Public safety, beach safety and cleanliness, health, sanitation, trash and recycling collections, emergency repairs, preventative maintenance and essential services must be scheduled and supported.
  •  The long-term health and water consumption need’s for Cape May, West Cape May, Cape May Point and the U.S. Coast Guard require the City to proceed with the Desal Plant Expansion, and proceed with an R.F.P. as soon as possible.
  •  Budgeting for the Wilmington Ave. & Beach Drive flood protection project must be kept in place.
  •  Soldiers and sailors memorial.

Taxes:

  •  Our entire country is making sacrifices and commitments to help during these trying times, and so should Cape May.  Since we can and should reduce spending in the face of reduced tourism revenue so we should reduce the taxing of our local property owning citizens.  Many people are losing their jobs, retirement savings and claiming unemployment insurance for the first time.  It’s a double issue since it’s happening to both those of us who live here and those we count on for their summer leisure spending.  The TPA supports a goal of reducing our city spending budget for the fiscal year 2020 with a portion of this returned to the citizens in the form of a tax reduction.
  •  District and Regional School taxes represent over 30% of the tax burden upon our fellow citizens.  Again, in the spirit of community rallying we recommend Cape May City strongly encourage both District and Regional School boards to prepare their budgets with spending reductions and corresponding property tax adjustments.

This is not an easy time for anyone and these suggestions by the TPA are believed to be in the best interest of all concerned, especially for our economic base which is as fragile as the discretionary spending tourism industry is.  Federal and state revenue assistance may be expected to help with some municipality shortfalls, but those that make the tough decisions through local leadership can be expected to succeed for their communities.page top


Subject: Public Safety Building 3/9/20

The Taxpayers Association of Cape May strongly supports the objective of building new facilities for both the fire and police departments. As of today it appears there is only one feasible location for this combined facility.
 
We feel the taxpayers will be supportive if  all costs are projected including soft costs to  accurately project net tax cost to Cape May citizens. To achieve this objective City Council will need to compromise on details of this single location to move forward.
 
If Council is unable to achieve such compromise we support a binding referendum for the taxpayers to · take necessary action.   page top


 Subject: Sewell Tract Preservation 3/9/20

Please be advised it is the major ity position of the Board of Directors of the Taxpayers Association of Cape May to support the city's effort in assisting in the litigation efforts of The Concerned Citizens for Sewell Tract Preservation. The Taxpayers Association endorses a city contribution to not exceed
$85,000 toward the legal expenses for the efforts by Concerned Citizens of preserving the Sewell Tract as open and undeveloped space and or a mutually beneficial resolution. The Taxpayers Association supports this one time maximum contribution.
 
Further, the Cape May Taxpayers board encourages the city at an appropriate time, to take reasonable actions to initiate the recommended objectives of preserving this space, also known as "Sewell Point". The importance of such an initiative is documented in the Conservation Element of the Master Plan Reexamination, page 172 item 19.


Establishment of a Municipal Taxation and Revenue Advisory Committee for Cape May

On March 3, 2020 Cape May City Council acknowledged the value of implementing an Advisory Committee to evaluate and recommend potential changes for taxation and revenue development, identified as A Municipal Taxation and Revenue Advisory Committee, Resolution No. 82-02-2020.

In these unprecedented fiscal times, it is more important than ever that Cape May begin to develop fair and effective way to fund its future.  For over three months now no progress has been observed to move this Advisory Committee forward. 

Council acknowledged the value of this Advisory Committee as illustrated by its unanimous approval.  When can the citizens expect this committee’s membership to be named so their all-important work may begin?

Read More - The Resolution



 

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