Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 2
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
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Preliminary Borough Budget Is $25.8 Million

Dilshanie Perera

A preliminary look at the Borough’s 2011 budget puts municipal spending at roughly $1,000,000 over last year’s amount, with the total coming to $25.8 million. While Council considered these numbers at last week’s public meeting, it was noted that this is the first step in refining the budget document and that the totals are not firmly fixed.

Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi pointed out that although the proposed increase is $1 million, “through various actions, the tax increase is only about $200,000.” This means that Borough property owners would pay an additional $0.01 per $100 of assessed property value should the draft budget be approved.

Council members urged Borough administration to endeavor to put together a document that would involve another zero percent tax increase, as they have in the past two years.

One uncertainty pertaining to the municipal budget is the contribution of financial aid by the state. The draft document did not anticipate any diminishment of state aid, Mr. Bruschi said, adding that “any reduction would affect the budget dollar for dollar.” He noted that in the event of fewer monies coming to the municipality from the state, the Borough would need a “backup plan” that would likely necessitate cutting certain expenditures and services. “We hope it won’t be reduced,” he said of the state aid.

Fees and surplus funds are another avenue the Borough is taking to keep the budget as small as possible. Mr. Bruschi said that they were aggressively analyzing the revenue structure to look for areas in which the municipality may be able to raise fees.

Tapping into the Borough surplus for about $1 million drew criticism from Councilman David Goldfarb, who called the move unsustainable. Mr. Bruschi pointed out that the Borough’s operating surplus is the highest it has been in over a decade.

Mr. Bruschi emphasized that it would be difficult to justify harboring $3 million in surplus monies, particularly given the strained economy and the results of the recent tax revaluation.

“Replenishment is truly key,” Mr. Bruschi said of the surplus. While still waiting for all the data, bills, and statements from the 2010 budget to be tabulated and analyzed, he noted that “once we get audited numbers, we can go back and see what our history has been.” He also said that the municipality could determine how and under what conditions they have been able to grow their surplus.

Other items discussed included the consolidation of the Tax Assessor’s office to one location in the Township, and the Fire Inspection to the Borough. While the move may not spur greater savings, it will likely improve efficiency, Mr. Bruschi predicted. Other joint services with joint budgets will also be discussed between the municipalities.

The payment in lieu of taxes that Princeton University grants to the Borough will have to be renegotiated this year for the upcoming years, something that Mr. Bruschi characterized as crucial for moving forward. The 2011 budget process is ongoing.

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