‘A financially responsible budget’

Montgomery Township will hold a public hearing on municipal budget May 2

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A slight tax increase is expected for Montgomery Township property owners for 2024.

The $32.4 million municipal budget was introduced to the Township Committee and public on April 4. A public hearing has been scheduled for May 2.

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“We feel it is a financially responsible budget,” said Michael Pitts, the township’s chief financial officer (CFO). “It does not overburden the taxpayer [and] at the same time it allows us to continue our operations and hopefully continue to grow them.”

The introduced budget’s projected tax rate for property owners is 46.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which is a 1.3-cent increase from 2023.

An owner of an average assessed home at $507,000 will pay $2,367 in municipal taxes.

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes Montgomery Township School District taxes and Somerset 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.

“You pay for municipal services, the roads, the police, administration, engineering, all our capital,” Pitts said. “That is what these funds go to … we are 13.25 percent of the total property tax bill.”

Commercial and residential property owners support the budget through taxes, which is projected to be $18.8 million, a $688,000 increase from that amount raised in 2023.

This year’s municipal budget increases a little more than $823,000. Main cost drivers in the budget are the increases in police costs of $309,000; salaries not including police; debt expense; police pensions; health benefits; and utilities, which increases $23,000.

“Police costs like many municipalities is usually the most expensive,” Pitts noted, adding two new officers are starting in July.

“Salaries not including police [will see a] $115,000 [increase], debt expense [will see a] $105,000 increase, police pensions increased almost 6 percent or 7 percent [at] $86,000, health benefits increased over 4 percent [at] $80,000, and utilities [sees] a minor but still an increase.

“Out of the $823,000, the [main cost drivers] are about 87 percent of the increases.”

The budget will fund appropriations that include $11.2 million in salary and wages.

“Salaries are always one of our largest appropriations,” Pitts said.

Appropriations include $5.8 million on annual debt service and capital, $2.8 million towards health and liability insurance, $2.2 million on pensions, $1.46 million to reserve for uncollected taxes, $910,000 on social security and unemployment, and $790,000 on vehicle maintenance.

For projected revenues in the 2024 budget, Montgomery will use $5.3 million from the surplus as revenue in the budget, which is a $1.2 million increase.

“The reason for the increase this year is because last year we had American Rescue Plan funds [for] the past two years, so we were able to offset the surplus use,” Pitts said.

Other revenues include: $1.46 million in state aid, $900,000 from interest and investments, $730,000 from fees and permits; $700,000 from uniform construction code fees, $310,000 from leases, and $100,000 from court fees.

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