(Hamilton) – At a time when towns all across New Jersey have been forced to deal with reduced revenues and state aid cuts, and as several other towns, counties, and school districts across the state have subsequently raised taxes, Hamilton has accomplished a very impressive feat – for a 3rd consecutive budget, there will be NO TAX INCREASE in the Township’s portion of residents’ property tax bills.
At Tuesday’s Township Council Meeting, Hamilton Township will introduce its new budget that will transition the town back to a calendar year format, and most importantly, keep township taxes flat. Only 2 other towns in Mercer County besides Hamilton Township have not increased the municipal portion of their residents’ property tax bills this year.
“We recognize that Hamilton taxpayers cannot afford tax increases in this difficult economic environment,” explains Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo. “Despite the millions of dollars in cost saving measures that we made in past years, this year we had to work even harder to make additional cuts and achieve even more savings to ensure there would be no increase in township taxes for the residents of our community.”
In order to balance the new budget without any tax increase, the Township reduced 13 full-time and 12 part-time positions by eliminating vacancies and the positions of recently-retired employees to save $1.3 million over the next year. Overall, Hamilton Township today has 50 less full-time employees than when Mayor Bencivengo assumed office in 2008.
Additionally, in order to reduce costs and avoid additional layoffs, all of Hamilton Township’s employee unions agreed to take eight unpaid furlough days over the next 12 months, to save an additional $1.1 million. Township Departments also worked to reduce their operating expenses during the next year for over $1 million in savings.
And without any township tax increase, Hamilton will fund more necessary road repairs, sewer system repairs and needed equipments though the Township’s Capital Budget (for long-term needs). Hamilton will reconstruct or repave 13 additional roads through its Capital Budget, including all or portions of Orchard Avenue, Bear Branch, Applegate Drive, Kendall Road, Florall Avenue, Apollo Drive, Sandy Lane, Enicott Road, Albemarle Road, Klockner Road, South Clinton Avenue, Merrick Road and Clarion Court. Furthermore, a previously secured state grant will help fund additional road repairs on Hughes Drive.
The critical replacement or repair of sewer lines that serve residents in the Duetzville, Hamilton Square, Lalor Tract, Yardville, Mercerville, Bromley, and Whitehorse neighborhoods, as well as residents along Nottingham Way, will occur thanks to Hamilton’s Capital Budget. This is in addition to other needed infrastructure replacement that is critical to the Township’s Water Pollution Control (Sewer) Collection Plant.
Finally, the Township’s Capital Budget will invest in vehicles that are needed to assist with Hamilton’s brush pick-up service and that will be used during snow storms or icy winter weather events.
Last week, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Local Finance Board approved Hamilton Township’s application to transition from a fiscal year budget (running from July 1st through June 30th of each year) back to a calendar year budget (operating from January 1st through December 31st of each year). Prior to the early 1990’s, the Township operated on a calendar year budget, but was then forced by the State of New Jersey to transition to a fiscal year format.
Recommendations by Hamilton’s independent municipal auditor supported the return to a calendar year, which several other fiscal-year towns across the New Jersey have also decided to do. That is because calendar year budgets allow for a more fiscally conservative and accurate budgeting process. One of the reasons is because a calendar year budget cycle allows towns to know their exact pension payment costs owed to the State. Another reason is that the timing of a calendar year budget cycle lets towns have a much better estimate of their snow removal costs for the year.
Additionally, calendar year budget allows towns to save on costs that are necessary for the mailing of tax bills – as fiscal year towns are forced to send at least 2, but in some cases as many as 4, separate tax bills to residents because of the timing of the State’s budget approval process. Under a calendar year budget, towns can send only 1 tax bill to residents for the entire year.
“This budget is one that represents our administration’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and accountability to the taxpayers of Hamilton Township,” concludes Mayor Bencivengo. “Through our new budget, we will not only keep taxes flat, but also make necessary improvements that will benefit our entire community and keep Hamilton Township moving in the right direction.”