Hightstown Borough Council adopts 2020 budget

The Hightstown Borough Council unanimously adopted its $7.7 million budget for 2020 at a special meeting on Sept. 28.

The budget increases the municipal property tax rate from $1.32 per $100 of assessed value to $1.36. The owner of a house assessed at the Hightstown Borough average of $213,073 will pay $2,904.18 in municipal property taxes for 2020, which is an increase of $74.58 over the 2019 municipal property tax bill of $2,829.16.

The municipal property tax increase is reflected in the 2020-21 property tax bills. The quarterly property tax payment is due Nov. 1.

The municipal property tax is one component of a property owner’s total tax bill.

The $7.7 million budget decreased by $21,462 over the 2019 budget. However, the amount to be raised by property taxes increased by $150,362 – from $5.2 million to $5.3 million. Property taxes represent the main source of revenue to support the spending plan.

Miscellaneous revenue will generate an additional $1.5 million. This includes $7,500 for alcoholic beverage licenses and $17,000 for other licenses. It also includes $45,000 in fees and permits; $200,000 in municipal court fees and fines; $58,000 for the lease of Hightstown Borough-owned property for a cell tower; and $57,000 in interest on taxes and $20,000 in interest on investments.

Miscellaneous revenues also include assorted grants and the annual $23,000 gift from The Peddie School, plus state aid, which remains flat at $503,550. The budget also anticipates using $275,000 in surplus funds as a source of revenue.

Turning to the expenditure side, the Public Safety Department constitutes the single largest budgetary line item. The budget earmarks $1.7 million for the Public Safety Department.

The 2020 budget calls for spending $885,448 for the Public Works Department, which is the second largest budgetary line item.

The spending plan also earmarks $500,000 for the reserve for uncollected taxes. Hightstown Borough serves as the tax collector for property taxes levied by the East Windsor Regional School District and Mercer County government to help support their respective budgets. Hightstown is obligated to pay out what is owed to the school district and the county government, and then it “pays” itself.

Since municipalities rarely collect 100% of property taxes, the municipal budget has a line item – the reserve for uncollected taxes – built into it to ensure that the school district and the county government receive all of the property taxes that are due to them. Hightstown Borough had a property tax collection rate of 98.6% in 2019.

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