Edison grapples with the impact of pandemic as it introduces 2020 municipal budget

EDISON – Re-occurring annual revenues normally realized in the municipal budget are up in the air as township officials grapple with the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“[The revenues] may come back or they may not,” said Mayor Thomas Lankey. “COVID is clearly something very unique that none of us predicted. We don’t know what the future holds … there are too many variables.”

The 2020 calendar year Edison municipal budget reflects revenue decreases of $1.12 million (52.92%) in Latchkey before-and-after care funds for school children, a decrease of $932,936 for anticipated surplus (11.35%), and a decrease of $152,465 (14.41%) for municipal hotel taxes.

In 2019, the township appropriated $2.12 million in Latchkey funds, $8.22 million in anticipated surplus and $1.06 million in hotel taxes.

The non-property tax revenues have dropped 3.1% or $1.42 million from $45.6 million in 2019 to $44.2 million in 2020.

Lankey laid out the $150.22 million municipal budget, which was introduced at a meeting before the Edison Township Council and public on June 29 at the Performing Arts Center at Middlesex County College.

Edison officials will collect $99.70 million in taxes from Edison’s residential and commercial property tax owners in 2020 to help fund the municipal budget. Lankey said the real stress will be in August to see if people are able to pay their next quarterly taxes.

The budget that was adopted in 2019 totaled $144.35 million and included a $92.13 million tax levy. From 2019 to 2020, the total budget is up $5.87 million and the total amount to be collected from taxpayers is up $7.57 million.

In 2020, the municipal tax rate is projected to be $2.22 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $180,400, municipal taxes will increase by $175 from 2019. The average homeowner will pay $2,475.09, Lankey said.

Municipal taxes account for 24.26% of the total taxes that are paid by a property owner. The other taxes include school, county and library.

Edison is expected to receive an increase of $8,340 in state aid from $16.05 to $16.07 million in state aid for 2020. Officials will use $7.29 million from surplus funds (savings) as revenue in the budget in 2020, after using $8.22 million from surplus as revenue in the 2019 budget.

To maintain quality services and limit the tax burden on the taxpayer, Lankey said the budget includes many one-time revenues and the state maximum allowable amount of surplus that can be used. The one-time revenues in the budget total $10.86 million and the township is using $7.29 million in surplus to balance the budget.

Lankey said, although not the best practice to use a majority of reserves, his administration feels comfortable with the introduced budget to maintain quality services and limit the tax burden on the taxpayer during the difficult budget year.

The largest appropriations in the proposed budget — roughly 85% — are in public safety, municipal services and insurance due to union contracts and state regulations.

Public safety appropriations total $56.61 million, municipal services appropriations total $44.24 million and insurance appropriations total $27.79 million.

The 2020 municipal budget continues to invest in the township’s infrastructure – roads, Department of Public Works, recreation, police, fire, animal shelter, health and senior services, various technology, and buildings. The township has already invested $101.12 million in infrastructure from 2014 to 2019.

The township continues to address tax appeals in a timely basis. In 2019, 105 tax appeals were filed and 30% have been resolved. In 2020, the township returned $2.5 million in tax appeal resolutions to the budget for a one-time revenue.

The 2020 municipal budget documents are on the township’s website at www.edisonnj.org.