Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 50
 
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
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Township Sanctions Citizen Tax Input; Work Session Slated for Senior Housing

Matthew Hersh

Princeton Township Committee last month signed off on a plan that will, if successful, increase the level of citizen input as Township Hall weighs its annual operating expenses.

The move to allow a one-year trial of a new, five-member Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee has been more than a year in the making, and would effectively allow municipal appointees to examine annual town expenditures, and help to disseminate budget-related news to Township residents.

Township Committeeman Chad Goerner first publicly approached Committee with the prospect of a tax advisory committee in March, after the governing body unanimously introduced its 2007 municipal budget. A citizens’ commission, Mr. Goerner said, would largely be employed to recommend budget reductions, detect potential operating efficiencies, and serve effectively as an advisory wing to the Township’s existing tax finance committee, which is composed of the mayor, deputy mayor, and Township administrator.

The initiative was central to Mr. Goerner’s 2006 campaign for Committee, when he lobbied for a citizen-based tax committee in the hope that an advisory group could join municipal agencies and focus on consolidating services. Moreover, with New Jersey towns facing a 4 percent budget increase cap in 2009, Mr. Goerner had said that a tax committee could monitor state legislative developments.

This first year, however, appears to be something of a pilot program for the tax committee. Appointees are to be named by the mayor, with approval from full Committee. Mr. Goerner said it was unlikely that a tax committee would have a major impact on the 2008 budget.

Since his presentation in March, Mr. Goerner has met with Township CFO Kathryn Monzo to identify specific areas where a tax committee could begin to make a difference, which is, for now, limited to information distribution, and the review and authorization of municipal expenditures.

Addressing concerns that Princeton was in some way setting a precedent in establishing such a committee, Mr. Goerner cited two other New Jersey citizen advisory boards — one in Millburn and one in Hewitt, in his appeal to other members of Committee. Once these concerns were assuaged, it was determined that the first specific charge of the committee would be to enhance budget communications with the public.

Mr. Goerner said he hopes a full finance committee would be named by January or February of 2008.

Township administrator James Pascale praised the committee’s pending formation, saying that “any initiative that involves more community participation is welcome.”

To apply for a seat on the Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee, go to www.princetontwp.org, and click on “Application for Appointment to a Board or Commission” under the “Notice” banner.

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In other Township news, Committee is scheduled to hold a work session at its December 17 meeting focusing on various concerns from individual Committee members raised in recent weeks over a proposed zoning amendment to a senior housing overlay on Bunn Drive. In recent weeks, Township has examined a proposed ordinance whose signature component is a reduction of the age minimum on a 17-acre tract, just south of Hilltop Park on the western portion of Bunn Drive.

The suggested change in zoning grew out of a proposal put forth by architect and Town Topics shareholder J. Robert Hillier in his attempt to purchase the land and develop it into 158 age 55-and-over, market rate units. The area is currently zoned for residential development for individuals aged 62 and over.

As has been the case with any development in that area, known as the Princeton Ridge, Mr. Hillier’s plan has aroused significant environmental concern from area environmentalists, while being lauded by area housing advocates. Township Hall is not expected to entertain an ordinance introduction until its second meeting in January, which could fall January 7, though Committee’s 2008 meeting have yet to be announced.

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