Susan Jacobucci has seen it all when it comes to the workings of municipalities.
Galloway Township’s incoming manager has worked with municipal governments from the state perspective as director of the Division of Local Government Services for the state Department of Community Affairs. Later, she had a different perspective from the other side, as director of finance for the state’s largest municipality: Newark.
Jacobucci will take over Monday for Arch Liston, who now serves as business administrator for Atlantic City.
“She brings a lot of experience to Galloway from the local and state level,” said Mayor Don Purdy, noting that Jacobucci was chosen from 20 applicants, four of whom were interviewed. “Any one of them would have done a great job for Galloway Township, but she stood out.”
Jacobucci, who also served as solicitor for Cherry Hill, joked that going from a municipality to the state “was like jumping into the deep end without any floaties.” But she learned quickly. And it was interesting to learn about how diverse the state is, she said.
“You have towns with 20 people like Teterboro or Tavistock, and you have Newark and Jersey City with about 300,000,” she said. “And there are six or seven different forms of government within the state, and every place is incorporated. One of the challenges of managing towns is that every place is incorporated (as part of a municipality) in its own fashion. You don’t find that anywhere else in the United States.”
In addition, she said, “one of the things from a financial standpoint is that there are so many rules and regulations that have kept us from having towns end up like Detroit or all the towns in California that have gone bankrupt.”
After becoming director of finance for Newark, “I looked at it from the other vantage point. ... My experience with the state and my breadth of knowledge with the state could be applied to Newark. And in Newark, you could really get into the nitty-gritty of it.”
In a city with a $700 million budget and 3,000 employees, Jacobucci said, “I think one of the best things I learned in Newark is that opportunities out there apply to all sizes of municipalities, (including) some of the grants available and some of the budgeting tools you can make use of.”
Jacobucci, who considers herself a fiscal conservative, said Galloway faces the same challenges as other municipalities, including a decline in state aid and a difficult economy.
“If you’re managing that much of a budget, you really have to make sure where all the money is and how it got there,” she said. “I think that helps in Galloway.”
In November, Galloway authorized as much as $2.1 million in bonds to fund revenue losses from tax-appeal payments and reduced ratables. Liston said at the time that the township had budgeted $700,000 in reserve for uncollected taxes, “but we didn't realize we'd get 3,000 (tax) appeals and a loss of $126 million in ratables.”
But Jacobucci said loss of tax appeals and ratables has happened across all municipalities.
“One of the biggest things is that you make sure you bring in ratables and keep ratables here,” she said. “Newark is 42 percent tax exempt (properties), and just went through a revaluation as well. ... It’s a fine line to walk, bringing in ratables that don’t burden other taxpayers.”
As an example, she said that in Newark, affordable housing complexes that use PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) would hopefully be followed by subsequent development that would make up for that tax revenue. As for affordable housing in Galloway, she said that the township, like everywhere else, is awaiting the results of the legal challenges that have made towns’ obligations unclear.
Jacobucci said she believes Galloway can benefit from the shift away from gambling as a major economic driver. The township needs to market itself as “one of the hidden gems of the state,” she added.
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