Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 1
 
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
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At Reorganization Meeting Borough Cites Economy as Main Challenge in 2009

Dilshanie Perera

Borough Council’s annual reorganization meeting last Sunday featured the swearing in of Council members David Goldfarb and Barbara Trelstad for additional three-year terms, the election of Andrew Koontz as Council President, and the Mayor’s annual address.

“We have rarely seen a budget year as difficult as the one we ushered in just a few days ago,” Mr. Koontz remarked, predicting tough times ahead. “We will certainly have to raise revenues, either by increasing property taxes, raising fees or parking rates, and very likely some combination of all three,” likewise, “we will have to reduce expenses, either by cutting services, laying off staff, or reducing our municipal workforce by attrition, and very likely, again, a combination of all three,” he said.

At a recent Borough meeting in December, Council discussed potential ways to increase revenues and decrease spending. A new contract reduces garbage collection to once a week, and in addition to offering a benefit buyout option for employees, the changes will save the Borough $175,000, according to Administrator Robert Bruschi.

But that still leaves a shortfall of $890,000, even after all possible budget cuts have been made. To balance the budget, Mr. Koontz described Council as having to choose from the “painful options” listed above.

Indicating further cuts, Mr. Koontz observed that “a good starting point this year is for us all to recognize that every service the Borough provides is important, and if we must tighten our belts … we must tighten them together.”

In her annual address, Mayor Mildred Trotman pointed out the highlights of the previous year, while also noting that in 2009, “Municipalities will be expected to do more and more with less and less.”

Though aid from the state was $160,000 less than anticipated, and the cost of insurance and utilities had gone up, Ms. Trotman announced that the 2008 budget increase was less than five percent for the fourth consecutive year. “Worth noting for the fifth year in a row, we did not increase our workforce. In fact, in all likelihood, it will be decreased across the board this year,” she said.

The past year has also seen funding for energy efficient improvements to Borough buildings; the breaking of ground for the Hulfish North Project; the launching of the Borough’s Free B jitney service; rezoning 32 acres comprising the Merwick, Stanworth, and the YMCA and YWCA properties; the opening of the new Paul Robeson Center for the Arts; the submission of an affordable housing plan to the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH); the beginning of Phase II of the downtown redevelopment project; groundbreaking on Leigh Avenue to build five units of affordable housing; and the approval of plans to renovate and expand parts of the Nassau Inn, Ms. Trotman noted.

Remarking that the revaluation of properties will begin in the first quarter of 2009, and are scheduled to be complete by October, Ms. Trotman added that the Sustainable Princeton Community Plan is expected to be presented to the municipalities early in the year, while discussions with Princeton University regarding the Campus Master Plan, which includes the proposed Arts and Transit Neighborhood, are ongoing.

Likewise, Mr. Koontz urged an open dialogue with the University, and a discussion about a long-term vision for the downtown. “There are important policy initiatives we must take. The future of our community will not wait for economic conditions to improve,” he said.

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