Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 24
 
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
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Proposed Township Budget Would Produce Lowest Tax Increase in Four Years

Ellen Gilbert

Princeton Township taxpayers will face an annual tax increase of five cents per $100 of the assessed value of their homes, if the proposed 2008 budget presented at Tuesday’s Township Committee meeting is approved.

Chief Financial Officer Kathryn Monzo and Township Administrator Jim Pascale introduced the proposed budget, noting that this is the lowest tax increase in four years.

Salaries comprise the lion’s share of the budget, they said, and the biggest changes in salary this year include a four percent salary increase for police department employees, who are unionized, and a three percent increase, which is still under negotiation, for all other non-union employees. Mr. Pascale noted that the four percent police department increase is consistent with the prevailing amount recommended by current arbitration boards.

After salaries, major portions of the budget are slated for capital investments and infrastructure improvements (20 percent); health, housing and human services (14 percent); statutory requirements such as Social Security and health benefits (11 percent); and public safety, including police and fire department costs (18 percent).

It was noted that the municipal budget relies heavily on local taxes, with sewer fees, state aid, surplus from previous years, and other fees filling in some of the gaps. This year, the proposed budget has to absorb a loss of $184,000 in state aid as a result of decreased state aid to municipalities. “The Governor is making difficult decisions,” Mr. Pascale said, adding that he hoped such decreases would not continue in the future. In addition, a three-year “pension holiday” is now “coming home to roost.”

Surplus amounts each year are significant for maintaining the Township’s triple-A bond rating, which enables it to borrow money at favorable rates. Last year’s budget resulted in a $5,424,005 surplus, of which $3 million will be used towards the 2008 budget. The Township has tried to rely less on the surplus in recent years according to Mr. Pascale, noting, however, that it “is difficult to increase fees in other areas.”

Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand pointed out that although taxpayers are “writing a check made out to Princeton Township,” they should be aware that the Township actually only receives about 25 percent of the amount. Schools receive approximately 48 percent of each taxpayers’ dollar, and the county’s share is 27 percent.

Committeeman Chad Goerner noted that every Township department was held to flat increases in their respective budgets in an effort to even out the tax burden this year. Mr. Pascale expressed his appreciation for “the level of involvement” of Township Committee members in the preparation of this year’s proposed budget.

A public hearing for the proposed budget, which will be posted on the Township’s website within a day or two, will be held on July 14.

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