Council Introduces Budget Of $64 Million for 2019
By Anne Levin
Princeton Council voted on Monday, March 11 to introduce a 2019 budget of $64 million, which translates into an average rise of $83 for taxpayers, or a two percent increase. Other actions at the meeting included introduction of an ordinance to allow an affordable housing development at the former site of the SAVE animal shelter bordered by Herrontown Road, Mt. Lucas Road, and Old Orchard Lane.
The budget introduction is just the initial part of the annual process, and changes will likely be made before it is adopted. A public hearing on the budget will be held at the Council meeting on April 8.
Municipal Administrator Marc Dashield thanked the staff and members of the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC) for their work on the budget. He explained that though there is a decrease of $1.1 million from last year, the budget is actually higher. Last year, the town had a one-time expense of $2,126,000. As a result, the 2019 net increase in the expenditures is approximately $972,000.
The biggest component of the increase is related to Princeton’s Fire Department, which is looking to transition from all-volunteer to a combination of volunteer and paid firefighters because of dwindling volunteerism. The approximate figure of $810,000 for fire department expenditures is a worst-case scenario, Dashield said. Other top budget drivers for 2019 are police staffing, the contract for recycling, and a higher sewer authority payment.
David Goldfarb, a member of the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority, gave a report explaining why fees for that service are rising by two percent in individual participant charges, and seven percent for the town. The culprit is an increase in rainfall last year, the amount of which was factored into a five-year average of the projected flow. “Princeton’s sewage system is older and leakier than others in the Authority,” Goldfarb said. “We are trying very hard to identify and fix the leaky areas.”
Affordable Housing Site
The three-acre property proposed for affordable housing is owned by Charles Yedlin, who previously planned to build an office complex on the site. Yedlin was approached by the town about changing from his original plan for an office building and he agreed to make the switch to a building that would be 100 percent dedicated to affordable one-, two-, and three-bedroom units.
“This had been approved for an office building in 2017, but the office market is very soft,” said the town’s Municipal Planner Michael LaPlace. “The owner was approached, and was open to other ideas. It fits in with a lot of the goals of the master plan for Princeton to pursue affordable housing opportunities.”
The town held a meeting with neighbors of Old Orchard Lane and Mt. Lucas Road last month, and heard concerns about the height of the building, which would be four stories in one area and three stories in another. The plan has shifted somewhat since then, LaPlace said.
The site is accessible to public transportation on Route 206. Efforts would be made by the developer, RPM Development Company, to be sustainable and LEED certified. “The drainage area at Mt. Lucas and Herrontown roads was carefully engineered with the previous site plan, so we have kept it and will work around it,” LaPlace said.