Trenton Water Works musings

An overwhelming feeling of déjà vu beset many in Trenton as they heard news of Mayor Douglas H. Palmer’s childish tirade at City Council Thursday.

Once again the mayor took to the council podium, pounding and shrieking as he blamed “faceless” petitioners for fouling up his ham-handed plan to sell off one of Trenton’s last remaining revenue-producing assets for cash.

This cash apparently would have been used to paint over the 20-year executive’s continued mismanagement of city funds and smooth his exit from Trenton, but continued court delays from a lawsuit he initiated and the threat of a November referendum on this issue have put such plans on a year-long hiatus.

The mayor’s latest public statements continue the farce that would have many believe that selling off 60 percent or more of the Trenton Water Works ratepayer base is a good idea, which it’s not.

Even when considering the catastrophic tax increase quoted by the mayor – presuming it’s true – it should be remembered, as Mayor Palmer said Thursday, that Trenton faces a recurring, structural deficit.

This means that once the revenue from a successful water sale is exhausted equal or greater tax increases would be required to balance the books.

At this same time our budget would suffer further from a lack of water surpluses that are regularly transferred into the city’s general fund.

In fact, the post-sale system would only break even or likely go into a deficit, according to utility employees who have analyzed the city’s plans.

So the basic questions for Trentonians is this – if massive tax increases are a given, would you prefer to face them in a city with a complete water system that generates million-dollar, tax-reducing surpluses, or would you rather face them in two years or less, without the outside system and probably with a city system that requires its own infusion of tax money to break even?

No one among the petitioners is looking to punish the mayor – and the city along with him – for his mismanagement.

We think this is simply a poor plan that puts the city on even worse fiscal footing that it enjoys currently, for but one or two years’ respite.

Such thinking got the city to where it is now, and has no place in the city’s future.

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