West Windsor Council will hold a public hearing on April 24 for the $39.94 million municipal budget for 2017.
The budget, which is about $500,000 more than last year’s package, was introduced by council on March 27. It includes $23.95 million to be raised by taxation, a 2.51 percent increase over last year.
The budget was presented by Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and administration in February and was amended by council following several budget work sessions.
The amount of the tax increase won’t be known until Mercer County certifies the tax base (the total valuation of all property in the township), which is expected to take place at some point before the budget public hearing, said Joanne Louth, the township’s chief financial officer.
The budget proposed by Hsueh called for a tax increase of 1.6-cents per $100 of assessed valuation, based on an estimate using last year’s tax base. The budget as introduced by council would increase taxes by 1 cent per $100 of assessed valuation using the 2016 numbers.
In the budget message submitted with his proposed budget, Hsueh said that decisions by council to not raise taxes in 2014 and 2015 “changed our financial condition” and made a tax increase unavoidable this year.
The mayor proposed using $4.43 million of the surplus towards the budget. During its deliberations, council increased the amount by $340,000. That reduced the amount to be raised by taxation by about $336,000.
Hsueh also said that the decision by council in 2016 to anticipate additional revenues for construction fees that were ultimately not realized is also a factor in the tax increase. The budget anticipated $1.2 million in fees, but the township only collected $985,488. This year’s budget anticipates $975,000.
Other anticipated revenues this year include $555,000 from the municipal court, $700,000 in hotel taxes, $275,000 for fees and permits, and $125,000 for alcoholic beverage and other licence fees.
Expenditures in the budget include a $205,395 increase in salaries and wages, a 1.53 percent increase over last year. This includes a 1.8 percent salary increase across the board for union and non-union employees.
Included in the salary funding is money for the hiring of one additional police officer. It would be the first new officer added to the force in the last decade.
“The West Windsor Police Division, as part of its five-year plan, intends to focus on community policing, which includes community-based initiatives and programs for youth and adults designed to connect to the community and increase transparency,” Hsueh said in his budget message.
He stated that the township is experiencing growth within the business community and in residential development.
“The calls for service patrol officers respond to are more complex and demanding; hence more time consuming,” he said.
“The police division must begin to increase the number of patrol officers in order to continue to provide adequate coverage and protection to the community, increase its programs and services to meet the needs of the growing population and insure response time is not compromised,” Hsueh said.
Other increased costs include $544,838 for group insurance, $136,391 for payments to the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority and $45,089 for pensions.
Capital projects in the budget this year include the road diet reconstruction of Canal Pointe Boulevard to calm traffic, construction of sidewalks on Cranbury Road from Route 571 to Sunnydale Way, and a picnic pavilion and rest room at the Conover Road playing fields and at Duck Pond Park.
Other projects include resurfacing of southbound lanes on Alexander Road between Vaughn Drive and Route 1 (the township has received almost $400,000 in grants for the project); repairs and renovations to the Hendrickson Drive tennis courts; repairs and renovations to the tennis and basketball courts in Community Park; and the installation of a right-turn lane on Village Road West for traffic turning onto North Post Road heading toward the municipal site and train station.
Another project is the renovation of vacant space in the Princeton Junction post office building for the relocation of the Health, recreation and Parks division from the municipal building to that space.