Princeton Council introduces 2024 municipal budget with 2-cent tax increase

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Princeton property owners will see a two-cent increase in the municipal property tax rate, under the proposed $74.5 million municipal budget for 2024.

The budget was introduced by the Princeton Council at its March 14 meeting. A public hearing and final action on it will be held at the Council’s April 29 meeting.

The municipal property tax rate will increase from 56 cents per $100 of assessed value to 58 cents. The owner of a house assessed at the town average of $853,136 would pay $4,948 in municipal property taxes.

A Princeton property owner’s tax bill includes the municipal property, library and open space tax, plus the school district property tax and the Mercer County property and open space tax.

When officials began the budget process two months ago, the proposed property tax rate would have increased by eight cents, said Chief Financial Officer Sandra Webb.

But officials took a “hard look” at the budget and cut the property tax rate increase to two cents, Webb said. They trimmed $1.7 million in spending from the earlier version of the budget.

Officials reviewed trends in spending over the past couple of years, Webb said. Some of the municipal departments asked for the same amount of money each year, but did not spend all of it, she added.

Councilman David Cohen, who helped to prepare the budget, said salary and benefits increased by $932,000 to pay for several new positions, plus contractual obligations.

The town is hiring its first paid fire chief, and an administrative assistant is being hired for the Human Services Department, Cohen said. The town also has hired its own 911 dispatchers.

The main source of revenue to support the spending plan is property taxes. The amount to be raised by property taxes is $40.1 million.

Miscellaneous revenue is expected to generate $22.5 million. This includes revenue from fees and permits, licenses, municipal court costs and the hotel and motel tax.

The town will use $10.7 million in surplus funds to help balance the budget. The surplus account contained $21.5 million on Dec. 31, 2023.

Princeton University will contribute $5.2 million as its fair share toward the budget, plus an additional $200,000.

Voluntary contributions from the Institute for Advanced Study and the Tenacre Foundation are $250,000 and $500,000, respectively.

AvalonBay Properties will make its first PILOT – payment-in-lieu-of-taxes – of $599,000 on its development on Thanet Circle, off Terhune Road.

Additional payments in lieu of taxes include $330,000 from Princeton Community Village and $100,000 from Elm Court.

Princeton will receive $2.7 million in state aid.

On the expenditure side, $8.4 million has been allocated to the Princeton Police Department and $1.3 million for the Princeton Fire Department.

The budget earmarks $5.3 million for the Department of Public Works, which includes road maintenance and repair, public buildings and grounds, vehicle maintenance and maintenance of sewerage facilities.

Finally, $2.4 million is included in the budget for pension contributions to the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System and $2 million to the Public Employees Retirement System.