Hopewell Township adopts $24.7M municipal budget for 2021


Members of the Hopewell Township Committee have adopted a $24.78 million budget for municipal operations in 2021.

Mayor Julie Blake, Deputy Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, Committeewoman Kristin McLaughlin, Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski and Committeeman Michael Ruger voted “yes” for the budget’s adoption on May 17. The budget’s introduction occurred on April 19.

Since introduction the budget has increased from by $121,298 from $24.6 million to $24.78 million, due to increased appropriations to legal services, streets and roads salary and wages and public health salary and wages.

“As I understand it under general appropriations we are putting aside additional monies to protect us from ongoing litigation as it relates to affordable housing and personnel,” Kuchinski said. “Then we are also conditionally having money on the public health line for a community outreach person and then for streets and roads we are working with one of our local nonprofits regarding some trail work, but until that work is complete we have money set aside in our open space trust, but want make sure that we have money in the operating budget as well so we are protected either way.”

Hopewell Township’s municipal appropriations are increasing from $23.59 million in 2020 to $24.78 million in 2021. Residential and commercial property owners support the appropriations through a tax levy.

The tax levy is increasing from $16.07 million in 2020 to $16.67 million for 2021 budget.

According to budget documents, the current budget includes an increase in the municipal tax rate, which is expected to be 43.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. In 2021, the owner of an average home assessed at $480,085 pays $2,093 in municipal taxes.

The 2020 municipal tax rate was 41 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. In 2020, the owner of an average home assessed at $480,085 paid $1,968 in municipal taxes.

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes Hopewell Valley Regional School District taxes and Mercer 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.

For revenues in the 2021 budget, Hopewell Township will use $1.73 million from the surplus as revenue in the budget. In the 2020 budget, officials used $1.18 million from the surplus funds as revenue in the budget. Other revenues in the 2021 budget include $1.63 million in state aid, which is a slight decrease in aid received in 2020 ($1.65 million); $700,000 from public and private revenues, $529,417 in shared service agreements, $367,000 from fees and permits, and $234,066 from the Cable TV franchise fee.

On the appropriations side of the budget, the budget will fund appropriations that include $6.32 million on municipal debt service and $4.86 million total for benefits.

“There are a couple factors that cause the benefits to be up. Increased premiums for medical coverage as well as a modest increase in township staffing that has an impact on our benefits for the year,” Chief Financial Officer Julie Troutman said.

Additional appropriations include $3.68 million on the police department, which includes $3.49 million towards police department salary and wages, $2.91 million for general government, $1.81 million for streets and roads, $560,736 on shared service agreements, and $439,781 on legal services.

Troutman said during the meeting in contingency planning for year two of the coronavirus pandemic that the township will keep an eye on revenues coming in 2021.

“Let’s say interest rates are not going to climb back up, we would keep an eye on appropriations and do some freezing of spending that we can hold off on,” she added.

The township will also work towards additional shared services with municipalities and the school district, pursue any available federal, state or county grants, and prepare to receive and utilize American Rescue federal funds.