The Lawrence Township Council got its first look at the recommended $60.7 million municipal budget for 2023, which carries a 2-cent increase in the municipal property tax rate.
The 2023 municipal budget, which was recommended at a Jan. 17 Council meeting, is $6.1 million more than the 2022 budget of $54.6 million. It is expected to be introduced at the Council’s March 7 meeting.
The municipal property tax rate would increase from 63 cents per $100 of assessed value to 65 cents. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $284,792 would pay $1,851.14 in municipal property taxes, which is an increase of $82.50 over the 2022 tax bill.
The municipal property tax is one component of a property owner’s total tax bill. The total tax bill includes the Lawrence Township Public Schools and Mercer County property tax levies.
Salaries and wages, pension contributions, healthcare, interest on borrowing, dispatch services and lead paint testing are the main cost drivers for the budget increase, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said.
While there has been discussion about state health insurance premium increases approaching 22%, Lawrence Township’s increase is about 10%. The increase depends on the specific health benefits plan chosen by employees, officials said.
Lawrence Township must test for the presence of lead paint in one- and two-family rental housing units, under a new state law. Based on estimates from lead testing laboratories, the township may charge between $150 and $175 to cover the costs of testing the samples sent to the labs, officials said.
Nerwinski said there will likely be significant increases in the township’s contracts for trash collection and 911 emergency dispatching services. The trash collection contract expires in November, and officials are already reviewing bids submitted for the dispatching services contract.
The main source of revenue to support the budget is property taxes. The amount to be raised by taxes is $30.8 million, which is $1.2 million more than the 2022 property tax levy.
The township also relies on miscellaneous revenue as a source of income, in addition to property taxes. Miscellaneous revenue, such as fees and permits, liquor licenses, the hotel and motel tax and the new cannabis sales tax, will generate $19.2 million in revenue.
Lawrence Township expects to receive $450,000 in revenue from the 2% local retail tax on cannabis dispensaries, officials said. There is one cannabis dispensary in the township.
Lawrence Township also will receive $4.1 million in state aid.
Township officials anticipate using $9.9 million in surplus funds as a source of revenue to balance the budget. It is an increase of $3.1 million over the $6.8 million in surplus funds that was used in the 2022 budget.
Lawrence Township had $20.6 million in surplus funds on Dec. 31, 2022, compared to $17.5 million at the end of 2021. The township was able to regenerate the amount of surplus funds that it had used for the 2022 budget.
Township Councilman Christopher Bobbitt said he appreciated the “hard work” that Nerwinski and Chief Financial Officer Peter Kiriakatis have done to prepare the recommended municipal budget.
“I think all of us have been feeling the inflationary pressures over the last year. So far, so good,” Bobbitt said of the recommended budget.