Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 15
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
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Borough Examines Operating Budget, Considers Arts Council Annual Report

Dilshanie Perera

As the Borough debates its 2011 budget, no tax increase is expected for the third year in a row. Borough Council was briefed on its annual operating budget as well as the status of the Arts Council of Princeton last week.

The introduction of the amended annual budget was expected at Tuesday’s public meeting, which occurred after Town Topics press time. The April 20 issue will contain a detailed story of the discussion concerning the municipality’s fiscal plans, with the budget’s scheduled adoption slated for Tuesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Borough Hall.

Administrator Bob Bruschi explained that staff was required to maintain a zero tax increase by reducing municipal expenditures. Since the “value of our tax penny went down,” he said that $300,000 in cuts had to be located.

Both capital and operating surplus are at a high this year, and Mr. Bruschi promised Council a fuller report on the Borough strategies and processes that resulted in raising such funds. Acknowledging that state policy emphasizes that local municipalities should use their surplus funds, he said that Borough staff had put together a “realistic” plan that would maintain financial strength for many years.

Council member David Goldfarb encouraged staff to “try to identify all the places we keep surplus” and to take a “more global look at every possible place where money is sitting.”

Mr. Bruschi also noted that municipal employees contribute to their benefit plans with 1.5 percent of their salaries, adding that the current budget would allow for salary increases of up to two percent for employees. Staff in the police department are receiving a 2.4 percent salary increase this year based on their contract, but the raise for other employees is up to Council to decide.

In his report to the governing body, Executive Director of the Arts Council Jeff Nathanson focused on the activities that took place in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood over the past year. He credited a “major financial turnaround” with allowing for certain expansions, and said the organization is expecting a similar fiscal results in the upcoming year. Education programs have grown by 30 percent, and the past year also saw an increase in individual contributing to the Arts Council.

Calling their $1.9 million mortgage the “biggest financial obstacle” that the nonprofit is facing, Mr. Nathanson said that 2011 has been deemed the “Burn the Mortgage” year, with a goal of raising funds to completely retire the debt by the year’s end. Since January 2011, $550,000 has already been donated to the campaign.

Another goal is to build an endowment fund for education, scholarships, and neighborhood programs. Over the past year, $17,292 was granted in the form of full and partial scholarships for Arts Council classes and programs. Mr. Nathanson reported that 39 percent of students received scholarship assistance, with $2,252 going specifically toward registrations for students living in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.

Partnerships and free community programs were discussed, and Mr. Nathanson explained the economic impact study in which the Arts Council is currently engaged. Scheduled to be completed in 2012, the report will detail data regarding the “amount of economic activity generated by arts and cultural events in Princeton.”

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