March 13, 2019

Mayor Responds to Hughes Letter On the Finance Advisory Committee

To the Editor:

Princeton, like other towns in this state, struggles to shave every penny in taxes, and the Council has tasked the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee in helping with this effort.  Given that 29 percent of our property tax dollars flows to the County — 40 percent more than the town’s share, Council requested CFAC conduct a preliminary analysis of County spending in hopes of identifying room for savings.

In response to last week’s letter in the Town Topics from Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes (“Mercer County Responds to Citizens Finance Advisory Committee Analysis,” Mailbox, March 6), we want to make clear that our intention is to engage the county constructively. Our findings show that the taxes paid to the county by Mercer County residents are out-of-line with taxes in similar New Jersey counties — about 25 percent higher, $54 million higher, than the average of our eight peer counties, equating to $1,151 for the average residential tax bill in Princeton.

All counties in New Jersey offer the same services that Mercer County does. While our County does host the state capital, the percentage of property in the County that is tax exempt is not materially different from the eight peer counties, and all of the peers also operate parks and schools and spend heavily on public safety. While our analysis is preliminary, its conclusions and recommendations have not changed.

We encourage the County to dig further — and do the kind of rigorous self-examination that Princeton and the great majority of municipalities do every year in the service of keeping their residents’ taxes as low as possible.

The CFAC presentation and underlying spreadsheets are available online at

Mayor Liz Lempert
Scott Sillars,
Chair, Citizens Finance Advisory Committee