Princeton Council introduces $64M municipal budget for 2019

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The Princeton Council introduced a $64 million municipal budget for 2019 this week and set April 8 as the date for a public hearing on the proposed spending plan.

The proposed budget, which is under review and which may change in the next few weeks, carries a 1-cent increase in the municipal tax rate – from 48 cents to 49 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

For the owner of a house assessed at the town average of $838,562, the municipal property tax bill will increase from $4,067 in 2018 to $4,150 in 2019.

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes school taxes and county taxes.

Outlining the budget for council members at their March 11 meeting, Administrator Marc Dashield said the 2019 budget is $1.1 million less than the 2018 budget that totaled $65.1 million.

“This reduction does not reflect the change in the actual budget expenditures because last year we had a one-time expense of $2.1 million. As a result, the net increase in the expenditures (for the 2019 budget) is $972,608,” Dashield said.

The largest component of that increase is $800,000 for salaries and wages to help the Princeton Fire Department, Dashield said. He said there is a strong possibility the all-volunteer fire department will transition to a combination paid/volunteer fire department.

Municipal officials commissioned a study of the fire department several months ago. The results of that study and the consultant’s recommendations will be released on April 8, Dashield said.

“The report will show us where we need the most support. By April 8, we will have a better idea,” he said, adding that $800,000 was plugged into the budget for a “worst case scenario.”

Councilman Tim Quinn said if municipal officials are worried about the potential $800,000 increase for the fire department’s for salaries and wages, then recruiting new members and getting more volunteers “into the pipeline” would help.

The major cost drivers for the budget increase, in addition to $800,000 for the fire department, are a $423,353 increase for police officers, an increase of $120,000 for trash removal and a $263,000 payment to the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority.

Employee group health insurance premiums have declined by $489,780, but liability insurance and workers compensation insurance premiums have increased by $5,515 and $16,527, respectively.

The municipality’s payment to the Public Employees Retirement System pension fund stayed flat, but there was a $96,000 increase in the payment to the Police and Fire Retirement System pension fund.

On the revenue side, officials expect to generate $420,000 in fees and permits, $260,000 in fire and housing inspection fees, $137,000 for licenses and $900,000 in municipal court fines and fees.

Princeton University’s fair share payment of $3.35 million is another source of revenue. State aid remains flat at $2.4 million. The budget calls for using $7.6 million from surplus funds (savings) and collecting $35.3 million in property taxes from residential and commercial property owners to balance the 2019 budget.

A breakdown of the revenues shows that municipal property taxes make up 57 percent of revenues. Surplus funds account for 12 percent, Princeton University’s payment is 5 percent and state aid amounts to 4 percent of revenues.