Pennington adopts 2024 budget with one cent tax rate increase

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The Borough Council adopted a $4.5 million municipal spending plan that will increase the tax rate by one cent.

Council President Catherine Chandler, Councilwoman Nadine Stern, Councilman Charles Marciante, Councilwoman Deborah Gnatt, and Councilman John Valenza voted “yes” in favor of adopting the budget at a meeting on April 1.

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Councilwoman Kati Angarone was absent for the meeting.

In 2024, the municipal tax rate is projected to be 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which is a 1-cent increase from 2023’s 54 cents. The owner of an average assessed home at $488,000 will pay $2,684 in municipal taxes for the year, a $49 increase.

“When we started the (budget) process we were at a 60-cent tax increase,” said Sandra Webb, the borough’s chief financial officer, explaining the Finance Committee was able to bring the tax rate down through multiple reductions.

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

The amount an individual pays in taxes is determined by the assessed value of a home and/or property, and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

The 1-cent tax increase is expected to generate about $57,000 for Pennington.

To support the $4.5 million municipal budget, residential and commercial property owners in the township are projected to pay $3.1 million in 2024.

The taxes being raised are a slight increase from the previous year’s budget taxes of $3.05 million, which means property owners would pay more than $50,000 in additional property taxes to support the borough.

Budget drivers include a $15,000 increase in police salary and wages for cost of living; liability insurance; workers compensation; police and fireman’s retirement system; and library expenses.

Outside of the taxes, Pennington expects budget revenues to include $578,752 from surplus, $85,000 from uniform construction code fees, $61,000 from trash collection fees, $47,000 from municipal court fines and costs, $40,000 from the capital fund (savings) balance and $33,994 from the Verizon/Comcast franchise fee.

For appropriations, it is expected that $768,000 will go toward police department salary and wages; $383,543 towards insurance (group insurance, workers compensation, liability and other insurance); $330,000 toward debt service; $290,000 to road repairs and maintenance salary and wages; $224,307 towards the maintenance of the public library, $273,856 to shared service agreements; $113,350 for planning and zoning; $100,000 in legal services and costs; and $98,000 to utilities.

Webb said the borough does not have control over a significant portion of the budget including insurance ($393,000), pensions and social security ($419,102), the library ($224,307), debt service ($330,000), utilities ($98,000), and reserve for uncollected ($280,000).

“That is 40% of our budget which I think is pretty significant,” she said.

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