Cranbury Township officials are expecting the municipal tax rate to remain flat for the 2021 year.
Denise Marabello, township administrator and chief financial officer, said she left the tax rate flat, during a budget meeting with the Township Committee on Jan. 30.
After a discussion among the five Township Committee members a general consensus emerged that the majority were in agreement to keep the tax rate flat.
“In doing so, we will use $1.535 million in surplus to keep the rate flat. We do have a healthy surplus,” Marabello said. “We do have to keep in mind that I had to use $500,000 in surplus this year to balance the 2020 budget, because I was short in revenues due to COVID-19. Hotel tax, fees and permits, everything was down, so we did take a hit of $500,000.”
Township Committeeman Jay Taylor was the dissenting voice in the discussion. He lobbied for a 1-cent decrease instead of leaving the rate level.
“I think what we should do in my recommendation is take part of the surplus and reduce the amount of long-term debt, but I also think to give us that room we should do a 1-cent tax decrease this year,” Taylor said. “We just did a reset of 10 cents in 2019 and you can see the surplus is continuing to grow, so I really think the AAA bond rating needs to guide everything and I think we are being financially irresponsible if we don’t figure this out with the surplus use.”
In the 2020 budget the municipal tax rate remained stable at 34.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home that is still assessed at the township average of $605,000 paid $2,105 in municipal taxes.
Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes school taxes and Middlesex County taxes. The amount an individual pays in taxes is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property, and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.
Cranbury Township’s budget covers the cost of providing emergency management, shared service agreements such as sewer maintenance and municipal court, road and vehicle maintenance, maintenance for township parks, law enforcement through the police department, first aid and the fire company.
Marabello said that if the township used the $1.535 million in surplus for the 2021 budget, they would be left with $6.36 million.
“The things that add to surplus from year to year are money that is leftover from our operating budget, which usually runs between $500,000 and $600,000. We usually replenish about that much and added assessments,” she added. “We had quite a lot of added assessments the last couple of years and in 2020 much less. We have to keep that in mind with what we are adding to surplus. All in all, surplus is healthy, we are in a good financial position.”
Marabello also said the added assessments will level off at some point “unless warehouses get ripped down and rebuilt.
“We are pretty much out of space now, there are only a couple properties where a warehouse could go on,” she said. “Then we have the Toll Brothers development. So those will be added on, our tax assessor was thinking, in 2022-23. I think that is optimistic. I have a feeling it will be a couple years down the road, but with that in mind, we are definitely going to level off at some point. After the next five years you are going to see a change.”