April 11, 2018

Council Approves Budget for 2018, Hears Comments on Affordable Housing

By Anne Levin

Princeton Council voted to adopt the $65 million budget for 2018 at its meeting on Monday night, April 9, first approving an amendment that would increase the use of surplus funds by $1 million.

Of that $1 million, $626,000 is to pay down debt that was authorized in 2018. The remaining $372,000 reduces the tax levy, with no increase from last year to this year.

Following the unanimous vote, Mayor Liz Lempert thanked members of the municipal staff and the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC) for their work. “Everybody always wants to put together a budget with no tax increase,” she said. “It’s easy to do that. It’s harder to put one together that’s responsible, and this is a responsible budget this year.”

During the public comment period of the meeting, three residents urged Council to include the public in plans for how it is going to meet a court-ordered affordable housing requirement of 753 units. The town must submit its plans to the court by June 22. Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson ruled last month on Princeton’s requirement, also setting West Windsor’s obligation at 1,500 units.

“Obviously, I understand it is still technically a process of litigation, which is important,” resident Sam Bunting told the governing body. “But I really don’t see any obstacle to at least starting the conversation. Some of us are going to be very supportive of the plan, if its good. But if your plan is to hold it back until the last possible moment, that will undermine the people who would support it, and build up resistance in the town.”

Lempert told Bunting and two others representing The Princeton Progressive Action Group that she appreciated their comments, and that everyone on the Council has expressed similar sentiments. “We want this to be in the public as soon as we can,” she said. “We hear you and we’re doing our best to do our process as quickly as we can so that we can have a public conversation.”

Earlier in the meeting, Lempert had reported that Council is “continuing to work on a sustainable smart growth plan that meets our affordable housing obligations, and we’re assessing available options. We will need to adopt our housing element and Fair Share plan in advance of submitting them to the court.” The issue will need to be discussed and approved in public, but there are still some details to work out, she said.

Council passed a resolution to authorize a one-year professional services agreement with Banisch Associates, a Flemington-based civil engineering firm, for planning services regarding the affordable housing issue. Also approved was a resolution authorizing payment of $168,768 to Princeton Public Schools for hazardous busing transportation costs in the 2017-18 school year.