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Township Approves 4.5-cent Budget Hike With an Eye on Road Support and Repair

Matthew Hersh

Princeton Township Committee adopted a $30.2 million municipal budget for 2004 Monday night that calls for a 4.5 cent increase in the municipal tax rate. One cent in the municipal tax rate is equivalent to about $235,000.

After wrangling with elevated costs incurred from medical insurance, retirement benefits, the new library, and the preservation of open space, the Committee has reduced what was once projected to be a six-cent hike to the current level.

Township Administrator James Pascale said the number one increase in the budget is the Township's debt service, which manages the town's road resurfacing, land acquisition, and park development programs. It also funds the Department of Public Works and its equipment.

The second highest increase is for the newly-opened $18 million library. The Township's share of the library operating budget is about $600,000 higher than it has been in previous years.

Township homeowners will incur a property tax increase. The average Township assessed home is valued at $415,111, up from $408,000 in 2003, and the average resident will potentially pay $2,573.69 in municipal tax, or approximately 62 cents to every $100. That figure is an increase of about $207 over last year's $2,366, or 57 cents per every $100.

One reprieve for the Township, however, was a $1,114 grant from New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs. The Clean Communities Grant is issued to municipalities from the state grant appropriation bureau to help finance costs paid by Public Works in cleaning the Township.

Other increases were attributed to costs incurred by the new municipal complex, salaries and benefits, $56,000 into the Police and Fire retirement system, and road repairs.

Paving The Way

The road repairs, however, may be on the minds of many Township residents after a harsh winter.

"Obviously, it doesn't take a genius to drive around our town and see the condition of our roads," Mr. Pascale said in announcing the Township's intention to "invest heavily" in the municipal road-resurfacing project.

Currently underway with a $1.3 million bid contract with the Bridgewater-based Pave-Rite, Inc., the Township 2004 road resurfacing project provides for the repair of 14 Township streets as well as the Township Municipal Complex parking lot. Roads addressed under the plan are: Bayard Lane (Township); Duffield Place; The Great Road from the Borough line to Winfield Road; Harrison Street from Terhune Road to Valley Road; Herrontown Road; Hunt Drive; Lambert Drive; Mt. Lucas Road from North of Ewing Street to the Montgomery Township line; Old Orchard Lane; Pardee Circle; Poor Farm Road; Terhune Road from Mt. Lucas Road to Harrison Street; and Winfield Road.

The work is set to be completed over a 75-day period that began last week with the paving of the Township Hall parking lot.

Paving should start within the week on Winfield Road, followed by Lambert Drive, Township Engineer Robert Kiser said.

Other upcoming road repairs related to separate road construction projects will cause the closure of both Lake and Knoll Drives within the next two weeks, Mr. Kiser noted. He added that Walnut and Cuyler Lanes, and a portion of Snowdon will be closed for road resurfacing related to the Township's ongoing sewer lateral replacement program.

A portion of The Great Road between North and Pretty Brook Roads will continue to be closed between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. for the remainder of the week, Mr. Kiser said. Starting next week, drivers should expect delays along that stretch as work crews will allow one lane to operate, letting north and southbound traffic move alternately.

AAA Rating

In related business, Moody's Investor Service has reaffirmed the Township's AAA bond rating citing a strong local economy tied to a sizable, affluent tax base, as well as "sound financial operations and manageable debt position," according to a statement issued by the service.

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