Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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Borough Introduces $26 Million Budget

Dilshanie Perera

Borough Council last week unanimously introduced the municipality’s 2011 budget, which weighs in at $25,991,953. Administrator Robert Bruschi suggested that Council consider a one-cent tax increase to offset the difference between the rise in expenditures and revenues, but all members of Council endorsed a zero-percent tax increase this year.

Mr. Bruschi explained the Borough’s current fiscal state, noting that expenditures were anticipated to increase $1.18 million and that revenues would rise $971,000 this year. Overall major municipal revenues are gained through parking, the court system, the sewer system, the capital fund balance, surplus funds, construction, and Princeton University’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

As a percentage of the overall budget, taxes make up approximately 40.8 percent, for which Mr. Bruschi lauded the Borough, pointing out that most municipalities throughout the state have taxes supporting 50 to 56 percent of their budgets.

“Critical to having surplus is the ability to replenish it,” Mr. Bruschi said. For the past two budget years, approximately $2.8 million in surplus has been available, with about $800,000 used each year.

Council member Roger Martindell asked Mr. Bruschi what the Borough would do in a worst case scenario situation, evinced by the examples that no major consolidation or shared services were agreed upon, Princeton University cuts back its contributions or services to the Borough or budget, and the hospital leaves town without a buyer developing the site.

“How are we going to deal with that?” Mr. Martindell asked, saying that we “have to paint a dire picture” in order to be prepared for such a circumstance.

Mr. Bruschi responded that having $2 million in surplus provides a cushion for the municipality, but acknowledged that the situation Mr. Martindell described “would be a tough one to weather without some serious financial implications.” He added that “I think you’ve done everything you can to have a very solid budget, with modest tax increases for the future.”

“We’re trying to plan now for the eventuality of the hospital leaving,” Mr. Bruschi said, observing that the Borough has just begun to realize the full ratables from the downtown redevelopment project, and that “Palmer Square will be coming on board with very expensive units,” which will further assist in terms of the municipal ratable base. He also noted that currently, the hospital does not pay taxes on its Witherspoon Street property.

As for looming expenditures, Mr. Bruschi said that “outside of statutory and contractual expenditure increases such as pensions, insurance, and debt service, the only significant increase in an operating budget is that of the Fire Department.” Most of the increase is requested to maintain the fleet’s fire equipment, he explained.

The Borough’s finance committee has tasked municipal staff with ensuring that no tax increase is needed this year. To do so, they will need to cut approximately $208,000 from the budget. Those members of Council not on the finance committee also endorsed this plan.

In order to adhere to state deadlines for passing the municipal budget, a series of public meetings to discuss various part of the budget will be held in the upcoming weeks. The Borough anticipates that its capital budget discussion will occur on March 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Borough Hall. The operating budget discussion is scheduled for April 5, with the public hearing of the introduced municipal budget set for April 12. The continuation of the public hearing and final adoption of the budget is slated for April 26.

Additionally, a joint meeting of the Borough and Township will be scheduled sometime during that time frame to discuss joint agencies.

For the Borough’s full budget document, visit the Citizen Finance Advisory Taskforce at cfatprinceton.com. Residents are invited to contact Borough Administration for further information.

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