March 15, 2023

Council Votes to Introduce $72.46M Budget

By Anne Levin

At its meeting Monday night, Princeton Council voted to introduce a budget of $72.46 million for 2023. The anticipated tax levy is approximately $39.7 million, which is an increase of about $1.27 million over the previous year. A public hearing on the budget is April 10.

Council also voted at the meeting to pay the public relations firm Taft Communications up to $50,250 to redesign and manage the municipality’s newsletter starting April 1. Before voting in favor of the six-month contract, which can be renewed for an additional six months, some members of Council and Mayor Mark Freda commented that the price tag for the contract was high.

“I just think it’s expensive for what we’re going to get,” Freda said. Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros responded that the newsletter will have written stories instead of cut-and-paste items. “It’s a reset,” she said. “So eventually, we’ll have a staff person do this. We need better outreach, and that’s the main focus.”

Council members say they frequently hear from the public that they have not been informed about municipal matters. Revamping the newsletter is an effort to be more transparent. Originally hired last September to review the town’s communications strategy, Taft issued a survey to determine the effectiveness of the existing, twice-weekly newsletter. Pirone told Council that 91 percent of those who responded said they read it at least once a week; less people read it twice a week.

“The overarching response is that it’s too long,” she said. “They would like to see more links, more FAQs, and make it more mobile-friendly.”

Councilman Leighton Newlin and Councilwoman Eve Niedergang said they had heard from members of the public who thought the $50,250 figure was too high. “But I’m voting yes because of the importance of our communication, understanding it is for a six-month period,” said Newlin. Councilwoman Leticia Fraga said she was hopeful part of the outreach will also include efforts to reach residents who don’t speak English.

Taft Communications, which is based in Lawrenceville, is to provide content, redesign the newsletter template, and publish it each week. The firm will be paid $14,000 for April, and then $7,250 per month between May and September.

The 2023 budget was described by Sandy Webb, the town’s chief financial officer. Costs for trash collection and health coverage have increased dramatically, and multiple street improvements and capital projects have also figured into the mix.

The town did not raise taxes during the pandemic. Pirone stressed on Tuesday that the proposed budget is a worst-case scenario. “We introduced it at the highest tax rate, but we are working to reducing it down to half the increase, which is in line with the cost-of-living adjustment we’ve done in prior years,” she said. “All of this is still in the works.”