The major theme of 2011 and much of what we will hear about in the early parts of 2012 is the issue of how to keep New Jersey municipalities under budget.

Today’s story by Townsquare’s David Matthau really got me thinking about this issue.

Ocean City is considering cutting the amount of firefighters and replacing them with EMT personnel because there research showed that there are more calls for medical emergencies than for fires.

As the economy continues to struggle, and towns are forced to cut more and more, these are the types of strategies that will be adapted to combat budgets and property tax caps.

I am all for the municipalities thinking outside of the box and working to streamline the efficiency of their operation. But I do wonder how bad we let the situation spiral before we got to this point, and how long until we can get out of it?

The success or lack of success of Governor Christie’s property tax reforms may ultimately define his term and possible re-election.

The onus will be put on towns and cities across New Jersey to try to operate with these caps, while providing services that residents have grown accustomed to.

In the past few months, I have read about shared services between municipalities, which can be an excellent idea for certain ones. I have also read about places re-exploring selling liquor licenses and searching for those alternative revenue streams.

These are all great things when officials are not just relying on taxing their citizens, but actually trying to be creative with where the money comes from.

But I do wonder if we are going down a road where slashes will continue to be made, which could ultimately lead to safety and quality of life issues.

And are we headed for a scenario when we will need to all figure out the lesser of two evils between higher taxes and lack of township services.

For now, it is a discussion for another day, but is it far away?