Lawrence Township officials introduce $50.5M municipal budget


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Lawrence Township property owners will see a 2-cent increase in the municipal property tax rate under the $50.5 million budget for 2020 that was introduced by the Township Council on March 17.

The municipal property tax rate will rise from 57 cents to 59 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. This means the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $281,403 would pay $1,660 in municipal property taxes, which is a $49 increase over 2019, township officials said.

Municipal property taxes are one component of a property owner’s tax bill. Lawrence Township’s residential and commercial property owners also pay property taxes to support the Lawrence Township Public Schools, Mercer County and the Mercer County Library System. They also pay county and local open space property taxes.

A public hearing and final action on the proposed budget has been set for the council’s April 21 meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal building.

The 2020 municipal budget, as introduced, is $1.4 million more than the 2019 municipal budget of $49.1 million. Officials said most of the increase is due to contractual obligations such as salary increases and to statutory increases such as pension payments.

There are no plans to create new positions. The township will replace police officers who are retiring to maintain the strength of the Lawrence Township Police Department, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said.

The main source of revenue to support the budge is property taxes. The amount to be raised by taxes is $27.6 million, which is an increase of $952,837 over the $26.6 million tax levy for 2019.

The budget anticipates using $6.8 million from surplus funds as a source of revenue to balance the budget. This is an increase of $1.2 million from the 2019 budget.

Lawrence 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.

Officials anticipate receiving $3.9 million in state aid for 2020. 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.

Lawrence Township is poised to make progress on several significant projects that have been in the works and grant funds played a part in making the projects a reality, officials said.

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.

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.

In continuing its push toward sustainability, the township received a $10,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey to install solar panels on the roof of the Lawrence Senior Center on Darrah Lane.

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.

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