Spending discipline

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Hopewell Township adopts 2023 municipal budget with tax rate decrease

Hopewell Township property owners are receiving a slight tax rate decrease after the Township Committee approved the adoption of a $26.3 million municipal budget to fund operations in 2023.

The governing body – Mayor Michael Ruger, Deputy Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski, Committeewoman Uma Purandare, and Committeeman David Chait – unanimously adopted the budget May 1. The budget was introduced in April.

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“The municipal tax rate will decline by 0.7 percent,” Kuchinski said. “That is a factor of a couple things – one is that our assessed value is up 2.7 percent from last year and combined with spending discipline resulted in a lower tax rate $100 per assessed value.”

He noted that the tax levy is below the cap and the national rate of inflation.

The proposed municipal tax rate for the budget is 43.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of an average assessed township home of $487,648 will pay $2,121 in municipal taxes, a decrease from 2022’s 43.8 cents.

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 or her home and/or property, and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

“In comparison to last year, the budget is a little over $1 million from the prior year. Out of that $1 million, $500,000 of it is due to funding projects directly,” said Julie Troutman, the township’s chief financial officer.

Impacting the budget increases are debt service payments, liability insurance, pension increases, salary and wages, medical insurance, shared services, direct capital purchases, and operating expenditures [not capitalized].

“Our pension employer appropriation is $116,000 greater than it was the year before. Our medical benefit for our employees is $120,000 greater,” Trotman said, noting a decrease in grants and an increase in the township’s capital improvement fund.

Hopewell Township’s municipal appropriations remain stable. Residential and commercial property owners support the appropriations through a tax levy.

The tax levy is slightly increasing to $17.3 million for 2023 from the previous year’s budget of $17 million.

Hopewell Township will use $1.99 million from the surplus as revenue in the budget, which is a $684,000 increase from 2022.

Other revenues in the budget include $1.73 million in state aid; $928,250 from the American Rescue Plan; $800,000 from delinquent taxes; $657,163 from shared service agreements; $446,000 from PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes); $407,000 from fees and permits; $219,154 from the Cable TV franchise fee; and $105,000 from Municipal Court.

On the appropriations side of the budget, the budget will fund appropriations that include $6.4 million on municipal debt service, which is increased by about $300,000 from the previous year.

Additional appropriations include $4 million for the police department, $3.4 million for insurance, $2 million towards streets and roads, $1.1 million toward the police and fireman’s retirement system, $943,534 towards shared service agreements, $670,000 towards capital improvements, $438,000 towards community development, $400,000 on utilities, and $215,000 toward motor fuels, according to budget documents.

Kuchinski said that with over $2 million in payments last year from Lennar and Woodmont, the township has rebuilt its fund balance [surplus] to more than $11 million.

“In 2023, we are going to be using a portion of those funds to directly fund capital projects,” he said.

The township will directly fund the purchase of a new police vehicle, update tax maps, fund the fund gap in the trust to replace the turf field, and in partnership with private entities work to preserve the Hart’s Schoolhouse.

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