Pennsauken officials have kept our taxes flat for 6 consecutive years but at what cost?

Pennsauken Township Committee officials love to tell us how they’ve kept our taxes flat for 6 years in a row.  It is their go to when anyone criticizes township government “But we’ve kept your taxes flat 6 years in a row!”.  It appears to be the crowing achievement of Pennsauken’s Township Committee.  But how did they accomplish it and at what cost?

Here is one way.  In December 2014 Pennsauken Township Committee closed our Police Dispatch Center outsourcing Pennsauken’s dispatch to Camden County’s Dispatch Center in Lindenwold.  In 2014 then (and current) Pennsauken Mayor Jack Killion said it would “save the township about $700,000 per year in salary and equipment costs”.    Mayor Killion called the decision a “no brainer”.

What got me thinking about this was a video posted on Facebook yesterday of a robbery of a Little Caesars restaurant on Route 130 in Pennsauken.  In the video a Little Caesars employee gives the dispatcher the store’s location multiple times while the dispatcher appears unaware of their location.

In 2017 I had a car accident near the intersection of Union Avenue and Wyndham Road (a location that I assume most Pennsauken residents know).  I had to give the Dispatcher step by step directions to my location (multiple times as was the case with the Little Caesars employee in the video) as he seemed to have no idea where I was.  At the time I remember thinking if I had been seriously injured and could not take the time to give the Dispatcher detailed directions to my location they might never have found me.  I didn’t make a big deal about it thinking that it was a one-off situation and perhaps the Dispatcher was new.

Then yesterday I read the responses to the video of the Little Caesars robbery posted on Facebook.

“I’m confused as to why so many directions needed to be given for where they were located to the 911 operator?”

“I called about a drunk driver once that was swerving all over the road, and they had no idea where I was even though I gave a very specific location (was right on 130 and gave them a cross road). Transferred me 3 times and still couldn’t get it right. I finally hung up because I wasn’t going out of my way to follow whoever it was, with my 2 year old in the car.”

“The sad thing is that 911 did not know where N. Crescent Blvd. in Pennsauken (is).  The employee repeated a few times even gave landmarks”  To which someone responded “Ssuppose someone got shot??”

According to 2016 FBI crime data Pennsauken’s crime rate is 31.83 crimes per 1,000 residents.  That makes us safer then just 17% of cities in the U.S.  Is saving $700,000 worth the added police response time and resident safety?  As of the last census there were 12,633 households in Pennsauken.  The $700,000 savings equates to $55.41 per household.   If it means increasing safety in our town please tell me where to drop off my $55.41 check.

In 2015 Pennsauken Township Committee considered a proposal to outsource our police department and join the Camden County Police Department.  Residents came out in force to support the Pennsauken Police Department and Township Committee ultimately declined the consolidation plan that could have saved the township approximately $30 million.  Can you imagine what might have happened if residents did not so strongly oppose the plan?  We may have called 911 and been connected to a Dispatcher who doesn’t know Pennsauken to dispatch a Police Officer who doesn’t know Pennsauken!

I like most residents support the Pennsauken Police Department.  I think we have a top notch department staffed with professional officers.  I have had to call the Pennsauken Police several times since I moved to town due to the car accident I mentioned above and incidents relating to a vacant foreclosed home next door to me.  Every officer I’ve encountered has been professional, helpful and my experiences positive.  Unfortunately our 911 dispatch leaves a lot to be desired as demonstrated by the video above and the personal experiences of many Pennsauken residents.

This is just one example of how Pennsauken Township leaders have kept our taxes flat. I think if you ask most residents they would agree it was at the expense of the safety of our residents.  I also think most, like me, would be happy to write the $55.41 check.   In my opinion the lack of transparency in our local government prevents us from easily figuring out what other safety and quality of life cuts have been made so our leaders can tout 6 years of flat taxes.  The next time one of our leaders or their political supporters tells you how taxes in Pennsauken have stayed flat for 6 years I hope you’ll reply asking them at what expense.