Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 7
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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Borough Eyes Budget, Considers Scaling Back in All Departments

Dilshanie Perera

The Borough Administration presented a budget plan to Council last Tuesday that detailed the kinds of cuts necessary to achieve the proposed goal of a zero-cent tax increase.

Administrator Robert Bruschi noted that in contrast to previous discussions about the budget, the administration was presenting “more of a global cutting of all of the budgets.” In the proposed plan, all Borough departments and commissions would see a five percent decrease in their operating budgets, which would save the Borough $137,000.

The Princeton Senior Resource Center would receive additional funding to operate the Crosstown 62 transportation service, Mr. Bruschi said, recommending that the duties of the Human Services Commission be reassigned to other entities, with the commission still serving as a volunteer body.

Other aspects of Mr. Bruschi’s proposal involve reducing Public Works salaries by $66,500, as well as reducing the staff at the Spring Street Garage by the end of March.

As for revenues, Mr. Bruschi suggested selling monthly parking permits and using $300,000 from the capital surplus, leaving a balance of $2.1 million. These adjustments in expenditures and revenue would yield just over a million dollars.

Even if the above services were cut and new revenue streams added, the Borough would still probably have to raise taxes in order to balance the budget. Thus, Mr. Bruschi’s proposal was tiered to include other ways the budget could be scaled back in terms of expenditures or eased by increasing revenues.

Ideas included increasing the cost of parking tickets by five dollars, reducing the Engineering salary budget, as well as that of the Finance, Tax Collection, and Tax Assessment Department.

The last two tiers of budget maneuvering proposed by Mr. Bruschi involved further salary reductions in departments including the Health Department and Court, as well as instituting normal daily parking rates in the Spring Street garage on Sundays, which would bring in $100,000 to $125,000 per year.

The administrative recommendation to Borough Council was to endorse the first two tiers of proposals for expenditures and revenue, and consider implementing a 3-cent tax increase.

Council President Andrew Koontz expressed concern that salary reductions “translate to lay-offs,” while Mr. Bruschi noted that “this problem is not going away next year. I’m trying to set us up in a position where we’re going to get through next year.”

Expressing skepticism about the severity of the cuts, Council Member David Goldfarb advocated reconsidering expenditures and possibly cutting more out of the Borough’s spending. He also wondered about building the budget surplus this year instead of bringing it to the same level in previous years.

Members of the Environmental Commission were present to remind Council that while the Borough contributes $3500 to the operation of the Commission, they have received more than $90,000 in grants over the past two years to use in projects benefiting the environment and the community.

Recreation Department Director Jack Roberts anticipated an even greater demand for the department’s services than in previous years, noting that they had already set the fee structure for their programs for the year. He cautioned that the Recreation Department “can’t be the one to take the [youth] employment program from Human Services. That program deserves a lot of administrative time, and it has to be done right.”

Council member Kevin Wilkes lauded Mr. Roberts for the work his staff does, particularly the 946 hours of uncompensated time they had put in over the past year. “You have to love what you do,” Mr. Roberts said.

Borough Council met last night (after Town Topics press time) to continue its discussion about the budget. A report of that meeting will be in next week’s paper.

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