New positions, capital improvements in store in Old Bridge

OLD BRIDGE — The hiring of two new police officers and a host of capital improvements are in store for Old Bridge with the recent adoption of the 2018 municipal budget and a capital improvements ordinance.

The $55.3 million budget will result in a $22 municipal tax increase for the owner of a home assessed at the Old Bridge average of $154,015, from $1,606 in 2017 to $1,628 in 2018.

Members of the Township Council discussed and adopted the budget and the capital improvements bond ordinance providing an appropriation of $4.85 million for various improvements at a meeting on April 9. 

The municipal tax levy for 2018 will be $34.17 million, to be collected from Old Bridge’s residential and commercial property owners. Chief Financial Officer Himanshu Shah, who is also the township’s business administrator, has said $6.75 million in surplus funds (savings) will be used as revenue in the budget. Old Bridge expects to receive $6.27 million in state aid this year.

The 2018 budget represents a $179,900 increase from the 2017 municipal budget, Shah said.

Mayor Owen Henry said it is important to note Old Bridge is still spending less money than it did in 2011.

“Substantially less, close to $700,000 less … we have been able to improve services and save residents money,” he said. “We have one of the lowest tax [rates] in Middlesex County. We are below state average. Our property values are increasing. Everything is going right here in Old Bridge because of a lot of hard work.”

Shah said the policy in the township has been to save and invest, adding, “We have turned it around 180 degrees.”

Shah said employee salaries, benefits and payroll taxes comprise 62.68 percent of total annual expenditures in the budget. Salaries and wages total $22.45 million, an increase of $763,122 from 2017.

Along with contractual increases, the budget reflects a number of new positions, including two new police officers, one full-time LAN administrator in the division of data processing, one new part-time position in the Municipal Alliance and two part-time crossing guards.

Officials said the tax increase is accounted for with a $13 increase due to the municipal budget and a $9 increase due to the library budget.

The municipal tax rate will increase from 97.1 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2017 to 97.9 cents per $100 in 2018 and the owner of a home assessed at the township average will see his/her municipal tax increase from $1,495 to $1,508.

The 2018 minimum state required funding for the library is $2.71 million, according to Shah. The library tax rate will increase from 7.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2017 to 7.8 cents per $100 in 2018 and the owner of a home assessed at the township average will see his/her library tax increase from $111 to $120.

The two taxes combined yield the total $1,628 municipal tax.

The municipal tax and the library tax are two items on a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Old Bridge school taxes, Middlesex County taxes and a fire district tax. Municipal taxes account for 20 percent of taxes paid by a property owner, Shah said.

He said along with maintaining or improving core municipal services, officials are improving the customer experience for residents.

“This does not cost anything last year and is our focus ongoing,” Shah said.

Capital Improvements

The proposed capital budget for 2018 appropriates $4.85 million for curbing, drainage, facilities and road improvements, the replacement of equipment and vehicles for various departments and divisions, the replacement of the library’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, and the development of Cottrell Farm.

Shah said Moody’s credit rating service has assigned Old Bridge an Aa1 bond rating. He said the township’s ultimate goal is to receive an AAA rating, which is the highest status.

Officials are bonding for a repair disaster recovery system, two television studio cameras and a production set. For parks and recreation, officials are bonding for a dustless blasting mobile unit and a Bobcat machine; for the Old Bridge Police Department, fatal/serious crash equipment, and a fingerprint machine and printer; and for public works, mobile columns, an engraving machine for signs and a garbage bin.

Facility improvements will include building security improvements, campus security camera upgrades, a locker room for female police officers, the replacement of two circuit breakers, a temperature control package, window replacement, and building department lobby improvements.

New furniture will be bonded for the new special needs adult service program recently approved. Work for the rooftop HVAC unit replacement will be bonded for the Old Bridge Public Library.

The bond ordinance includes Phase 1 work for Cottrell Farm Park. Shah said the township anticipates receiving grants from the New Jersey Green Acres program and the Middlesex County Open Space Fund to go toward work at the park.

Road improvements, traffic signal improvements on Route 9 and Spring Valley Road, and a number of vehicles are also included in the bond ordinance. The vehicles include a passenger bus for the senior center, a sport utility vehicle for the special needs program, two police motorcycles, a sanitation truck, a single-axle dump truck, and an all-wheel drive vehicle for the construction department.