The members of the Township Council during its Jan. 21 meeting had the opportunity to receive their first look at the proposed $50.4 million Lawrence Township municipal budget for 2020.
The proposed budget carries a 2-cent increase in the municipal property tax rate.
Under the proposed spending plan, which is expected to be introduced at the council’s March 17 meeting, the municipal tax rate would increase from 57 cents to 59 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
The increase in the municipal tax rate means the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $281,403 would pay $1,660 in municipal property taxes for 2020, which is a $49 increase over 2019, municipal officials said.
The proposed 2020 municipal budget is $1.3 million more than the 2019 budget of $49.1 million. Officials explained that most of the increase is due to contractual obligations such as salary increases and statutory increases such as pension contributions.
There are no plans to create new positions, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski reporter. However, the township will replace police officers who are retiring to maintain the strength of the Lawrence Township Police Department, he said.
The main source of revenue to support the spending plan is property taxes. The amount to be raised by taxes is $27.5 million, which is an increase of $837,422 over the $26.6 million property tax levy for 2019.
The budget anticipates $6.8 million in surplus funds as a source of revenue to balance the budget. This is an increase of $1.2 million over the amount of $5.6 million in surplus funds applied to the 2019 budget.
Nerwinski said the township had $16.9 million in surplus funds at the end of 2019, compared to a year-end surplus of $15.5 million in 2018.
The township will receive $3.9 million in state aid for 2020. The amount of state aid has remained flat for several years.
Miscellaneous revenues, such as liquor licenses, fees and permits, municipal court fines and costs, a hotel and motel tax, and grants will generate $15.2 million.
Nerwinski said the township is poised to make progress on several significant projects that have been in the works and he said grant funds played a part in making the projects a reality.
Lawrence Township expects to receive $2.9 million in grants toward the purchase of the Sheft property that borders Colonial Lake, adjacent to the Colonial Bowling and Entertainment Center at 2420 Brunswick Pike. The township will use $700,000 from its open space fund toward the $3.6 million purchase.
The township received a $60,000 grant toward the planning and completion of the Brunswick Pike Streetscape project, which will beautify a stretch of Brunswick Pike between Lake Drive and the Brunswick Circle, Nerwinski said.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has awarded a $239,524 grant to the township through its Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation fund toward the cleanup of the former “Pit Stop” property on Lawrence Road, he said.
In continuing its push toward sustainability, the township recently received a $10,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey to install solar panels on the roof of the Lawrence Senior Center.
The township also received money to install two electric vehicle charging stations at the municipal complex, and a partial grant toward the purchase of an electric vehicle, he said.
“It should be clear the township has focused its efforts toward obtaining grant money to fund its various projects, and has been very successful in doing so,” Nerwinski said.
The use of grant money, combined with the socially and fiscally conscious effort toward sustainability, demonstrates the township’s commitment to reducing the tax burden on residents for municipal government operations, he said.
“It is our mission for Lawrence Township to continue to balance services while keeping the overall (municipal) tax rate growth responsible,” Nerwinski said.
The 2020 municipal budget is expected to be introduced at the council’s March 17 meeting and adopted at its April 21 meeting.