Every municipality in the state is properly on the lookout for ways to save money. But proposed cuts should not leave citizens feeling blindsided. Fudging the numbers and exaggerating the savings from such cuts damage the credibility of municipal leaders. Lakewood may be headed down that path. The Township Committee, predicting ever-deepening debt, voted recently to solicit outside companies to take over the EMS Department. The change could occur in late February or early March, leaving 28 workers out of a job. An important decision like that should be made only after careful deliberation and full public participation.
Lakewood’s EMS unit had a deficit last year of $770,000 — a shortfall that is expected to increase this year and next, according to township officials. But EMS Supervisor Scott Carter says the $700,000 deficit the township attributed to the department for 2008 is misleading.
“The Township Committee is not telling anyone publicly (that) the money shortfall also includes costs being shared by every employee of Lakewood,” Carter said, referring to pensions, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, fuel and overhead building costs. “There is a small loss in the EMS department budget of about $200,000, which is minimal in the big budget of Lakewood Township.”
Carter blamed the loss of revenue on the large number of uninsured residents who are unable to pay the fee for an emergency response. Privatizing the service would potentially save the township $800,000 to $1 million, according to Lakewood officials. Lakewood needs to back up that kind of assertion with compelling documentation. Read full article in APP.