The Lawrence Township Council introduced its proposed $49.4 million municipal budget for 2021 – which keeps the municipal property tax rate flat – at its March 16 meeting.
The 2021 spending plan is $1.2 million less than the 2020 municipal budget of $50.6 million. A public hearing on it has been set for the Lawrence Township Council’s April 20 meeting at 6:30 p.m.
There will be no change to the municipal property tax rate, which will remain at 59 cents per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a house assessed at the township average of $282,395 will pay $1,666 in municipal property taxes, which is one component of a property owner’s total tax bill.
The owner of a house assessed at $125,000 will pay $746.28 in municipal property taxes, and the owner of a house assessed at $400,000 will pay $2,388.11 in municipal property taxes for 2021.
Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski described the 2021 municipal budget as being on “hold.” There was a significant drop in revenue generated through municipal operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the trend is expected to continue into 2021, he said.
Lawrence Township officials knew that a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 was being developed, but nevertheless, “the pandemic’s effects and impact leave many unanswered questions and the township’s financial future unclear,” Nerwinski said.
In addition to a drop in revenue, township officials also anticipate a significant decrease in commercial ratable and tax collection overall, Nerwinski said. Those factors will play a role in the township’s approach to developing the 2022 budget, he said.
“For now, we hold. There will be no new capital projects, except for our annual road improvement program. Staffing will remain consistent with 2020 levels,” Nerwinski said.
The township has been “aggressively” reducing its debt, he said. In 2010, the township was carrying $31 million in debt. It has been reduced to $11 million in debt as the township continues to pay it off.
The main source of revenue to support the budget is property taxes. The amount to be raised by taxes is $27.7 million, which is $116,073 over the 2020 property tax levy. The increase is due to the increase in assessed values, not because of an increase in the municipal property tax rate, he said.
Miscellaneous revenues, such as fees and permits, liquor licenses, and the hotel and motel tax, will generate $14 million in revenue for the township.
Township officials also expect to use $6.8 million in surplus funds as a source of revenue to balance the budget – the same amount of surplus funds that was applied to the 2020 municipal budget.
Nerwinski said the township had $17.1 million in surplus funds at the end of 2020, compared to $16.9 million in 2019.
Lawrence Township also will receive $3.9 million in state aid for 2021. The amount of state aid has remained flat for several years.