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Some NJ Towns Unable To Afford Halloween Festivities

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- With budgets tight, some municipalities have decided to cancel Halloween festivities this year, while others are continuing their holiday traditions.

Old Bridge's Halloween Spooktacular, a popular three-day event held in the township for the last seven years, is the latest victim of the township's budget woes.

"We love it and look forward to it each year, but at a time when we have our backs to the wall with a huge deficit, it's not the thing to do," said township parks and recreation director Thomas Badcock.

Badcock said Old Bridge Day, which was slated to be held in early October, also was canceled this year.

"It's not so much as the expense as far as materials go, it's the people," he said. "You have to spend money on overtime. That's where a majority of the money goes."

Badcock said anytime there's a special event that isn't held during the normal workday, the township is required to pay overtime.

"People ask all the time why you just can't change their hours," he said. "By contract you're not allowed to change their shifts. They have a contract and you just can't change their hours."

Linden, too, has canceled its annual Halloween parade, ending a 60-year tradition.

Mayor Richard Gerbounka said the city can't justify the expense, especially with a recently approved $344 municipal tax increase and planned layoffs next year.

Gerbounka said a Halloween parade is nice to have, but not when the city has serious financial problems.

In hard times, hard decisions have to be made for the benefit of taxpayers, he said.

The Linden parade, traditionally held on the Sunday before Halloween, costs about $40,000, most of which is used to hire professional bands. The cost also covers overtime expenses for police, public works and recreation department employees, some of whom receive double time for working on Sunday.

In Sayreville, officials are still planning on hosting their annual Halloween Parade and Trick or Treat Trunk. The event will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, at the Borough Hall football field.

"It costs the borough a couple hundred dollars," said borough Business Administrator Jeffry Bertrand. "It comes out of the special events account. The bulk of the cost is donated. Organizations in town come with a car filled with candy. Even the cupcakes given out are donated. The borough only pays for the trophies that are given out for the costume awards."

The borough works with the all volunteer recreation advisory board to host the event.

"We used to have big overtime costs, but we restructured the event in the last few years to work with the volunteers," Bertrand said. "The modifications cut our costs, but added things that weren't there before and made it better. We've seen an increase in the number of people attending."

Bertrand said the event typically attracts about 400 children and last year at least two dozen vehicles, representing various organizations in town, were on hand.

With local businesses and organizations as sponsors, Perth Amboy will be holding a Halloween parade and costume judging Contest on Saturday, Oct. 30.

The costume pre-judging will begin at 11 a.m. at the Perth Amboy Train Station on Smith Street. The parade will begin at noon.

The contest, festivities and awards will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Smith Street at the five corners.

The parade, which costs about $3,000, is coordinated and partially funded by the Office of Recreation and is co-sponsored by the Perth Amboy Municipal Alliance to Prevent Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Local businesses, such as Robert Fiance Beauty School, City Dance Academy, Glass Gardens ShopRite, Portuguese Manor, WellCare, Raritan Bay Area-YMCA and others, have sponsored the event.

No overtime costs are associated with the event.

"We have reached out to a number of sponsors and the community has partnered with us on these efforts," said Kenneth Ortiz, superintendent of the Office of Recreation.

Ortiz said the event provides an opportunity to inform parents and children of safety measures that should be implemented during the holiday and to warn children about the adverse effects of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

The parade, held in the business improvement district, also assists in the promotion of services for vendors in the downtown area.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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