NJ For Change

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NJ and Camden's New Budgets

The longer I blog the more I realize that I haven’t paid enough attention to what goes on in New Jersey, especially when it comes to the state’s finances.

Enlighten New Jersey has been doing a great job of analyzing Gov. Corzine’s 2007 state budget and suggesting ways to reduce spending. I hope people in Trenton care enough to do the same because a $30.9 billion budget that increases spending by more than 9% is unacceptable.

I say all that as a lead into two articles I read today about Camden. The first is from the Inquirer dealing with the city’s budget. Camden’s “deficit for fiscal 2006 grew by more than $3 million from the previous year, officials said last night as they presented City Council with a $154 million budget.” That’s bad enough, but this part was a real shocker to me:
The budget contains a $40.5 million hole, which must be filled by the state. The city's chief operating officer, Melvin R. "Randy" Primas Jr., blamed the expanding hole on rising costs for utilities and health benefits and on contractual agreements with two employee unions.
Camden already receives tons of money from the state and federal governments to supplement its own tax revenue. Now they’re claiming a $40.5 million hole that must be filled by the state. How does that work? Spend as much as you like and the state’s taxpayers have to pick up the tab? I really wouldn't mind as much if I saw some real progress.

Which leads to the second article I read today about Camden. This one is from the Courier Post and it contains this nugget.
The Camden school board has approved a $373 million budget for 2006-07, up $63 million, despite the state aid freeze.
Heaven help us, that’s a 17% increase in just one year for a city that’s been losing population for years. Just adding the municipal and school budgets together, Camden is spending more than one-half billion dollars a year. And that’s not counting the Medicaid, welfare, housing assistance, food stamps and all the other programs the state and federal government pays for.

I can’t find any more information about Camden's budgets beyond these two articles and the Star-Ledger report that shows the people of Camden pay only 4% of the city’s combined municipal and school budgets. That would be about $21 million or $263 per person collected by the city from residents. I can't find total spending for Camden by local, state and federal governments, but it must be a staggering amount per person.

There are fewer than 80,000 living in Camden. How is it possible to spend so much money and not see any improvement in the lives of the people? Does this make sense to you? As I’ve said before, the money is being spent but it’s not helping to pull people out of poverty. I am begining to think that all this spending has a negative effect - the more we spend the worse it gets.

No one is happy with the situation in Camden, it’s not getting any better and yet government keeps trying the same old strategy - add more ‘programs’, spend more money. Like Newark, Camden needs someone to come in and lead the city away from dependency and despair. It’s time for real change. I just hope it comes sooner rather than later – we can’t afford the status quo.
8 Comments:
Blogger PN said...

What planet do these people live on? I thought Newark was bad, but this is really depressing. Isn't there any adult supervision in Camden? Does anyone there take responsibility for anything?

Union contracts don't just happen. Somebody negotiates the details. Wish lists are not budgets. Budgets acknowledge finite resources and the need for tradeoffs.

If the state takes over funding it should eliminate the city's charter and fire all the incumbents.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

The last time I was in Camden it struck me that, in many ways, Camden makes Newark look like Disneyworld. Very bad situation there.

4:02 AM  
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Thanks for the links and your great work. Keep it up it's greatly needed.

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