East Windsor adopts flat municipal budget for ninth straight year

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East Windsor residents will not see an increase in the municipal property tax rate for the ninth straight year, under the $23.1 million municipal budget for 2021 approved by the East Windsor Township Council at its May 4 meeting.

Officials said the municipal property tax rate will remain unchanged at 43 cents per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a house assessed at the township average of $259,299 will pay $1,122 in municipal property taxes.

Municipal property taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which includes school taxes and county taxes.

Township officials will collect $12.2 million from East Windsor’s residential and commercial property owners to support the budget.

Municipalities rely on several sources of revenue to support the budget – from the use of surplus funds (savings) to miscellaneous revenues such as licenses, fees and permits, municipal court fines and costs, and a hotel tax. The remainder is raised through property taxes.

In East Windsor’s 2021 budget, alcoholic beverage licenses will generate $32,950. Municipal Court fines and fees will generate $375,963, and the hotel tax will produce $207,523 in revenue.

Construction code fees will generate $387,572. Shared service agreements for animal control, the senior citizens center and police dispatching services will provide $257,225 in revenue.

Officials will apply $3.2 million from the township’s surplus fund to support the budget. The township will receive $3.5 million in state aid – an amount that has not changed since 2010.

On the spending side, the budget allocates $5.7 million for police department salaries and $373,418 in other expenses, such as general administration, support service and training.

The budget for the Department of Public Works allocates $610,539 in salaries, and $266,575 for road repairs, maintenance of municipally-owned buildings and the municipal fleet of cars and trucks.

One of the largest increases in the budget was the state pension that covers municipal employees, police officers and paid firefighters. State officials send the numbers to the municipalities, which must pay them.

For 2021, the pension contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System, which covers all municipal employees except police officers and paid – not volunteer – firefighters, jumped by $670,033. It increased from $487,730 in 2020 to $554,763 for 2021.

The pension contribution to the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, which covers police officers and paid firefighters, went up by $90,617 – from $1.33 million to $1.42 million.

The 2021 budget is $321,331 more than the 2020 budget.

The amount to be raised by property taxes to support the 2021 spending plan increased by $53,096. Officials could have raised the tax levy to $12.5 million, but chose not to do so.

Mayor Janice Mironov said the 2021 municipal budget is a fiscally conservative document. There are a number of reasons why township officials were able to hold the municipal tax rate at 43 cents for the ninth consecutive year, despite a challenging year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

“First of all, there is a $10 million increase in the ratables base. East Windsor continues to be proactive and successful in seeking to expand business opportunities and attract new commercial ratables,” Mironov said.

While East Windsor took “major hits” in revenue during the course of the year, the town was proactive in monitoring revenue, Mironov said. The town froze spending and deferred filling vacancies so it could end the year in a healthy financial position.

“I think in general, the budget reflects the hard work of the Township Council and staff. It is a responsible, but conservative budget that meets the residents’ needs and shows them great respect,” Mironov said.

“It continues our low debt level. The township conducted permanent financing of all existing debt, resulting in a very low long-term interest rate of 1.23% for 11 years, generating significant savings for the township,” the mayor said.