Updated: Township Council Introduces $66M Budget With Slight Local-Purpose Tax Increase

BUDGET INTRODUCTIONTownship Manager Robert Vornlocker broke down the proposed 2023 township budget at the April 11 Township Council meeting.

Update: The Council adopted the budget at its May 9 meeting

The $66.3 million 2023 budget introduced on April 11 by the Township Council carries with it a 1 percent increase in the amount of local purpose taxes to be raised.

The budget – set at $66,306,337.80, down from last year’s $77,154,101.99 – is powered by a local purpose tax levy of $35,842,745.76, up 1 percent from 2022’s $35,487,867.

Still, the local purpose tax rate is 26 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, down from 28 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2022.

This is the second consecutive year the amount of municipal-purpose taxes will increase by 1 percent over the previous year’s figure, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker told the Council. That followed four consecutive years of flat municipal-purpose taxes, from 2018 to 2021, he said.

Vornlocker said this was the hardest he and his staff have had to work to create a budget in a decade.

“I and staff have done as much as we possibly could to keep a lid on waste and spending and this is the budget that is the best that we could do,” he said.

Filling out the rest of the overall township property tax bill, the minimum library tax is $4,478,588.58, the open space tax is $6,883,059.20 and the anticipated school district tax levy is $161,814,302.95, for an overall tax levy of $217,721,003.37, according to the budget document.

All told, the combined municipal tax rate is $1.518 per $100 of assessed valuation, according to the document. That translates to an anticipated total property tax bill of $6,631.53 for the owner of a home assessed at $436,860, the township’s average.

That figure does not include Somerset County Open Space Fund tax, Fire District tax, or the Somerset County tax.

The township’s assessed valuation increased nearly 10 percent from 2022 to 2023, going from $12,524,680,778 to $13,766,118,400.

In his budget statement, Vornlocker said the overall budget decrease from 2022 to 2023 of nearly $11 million comes in spite of a nearly $1.6 million increase in operating expenses.

Vornlocker said the increases were primarily due to:

  • Increase in Pension contributions and Social Security taxes of $307,000
  • Increase in Salary and Wage Expenses of $600,000
  • Increase in Overtime Expenses of $523,000
  • Increase in the Library Tax of $159,000
  • Increase in Legal Expenses of $140,000

“However, the budget increases were offset by a decrease in grants of $8.367 million,” he said. “This is primarily due to the American Rescue Plan grant of $7.73 million not being repeated, but which the township has until 2026 to utilize. However, the decrease in grants is a net offset in both revenue and appropriations.”

Vornlocker said the township’s Capital Improvement Fund was cut by $3.3 million, “although we still plan to continue with township Infrastructure improvements by bonding. Roads and sidewalks are planned at $4.25 million and an additional $1.3 million is planned for road-related projects.”

He said the budget uses $9.6 million of surplus, down from $13.8 million used last year.

Mayor Phil Kramer noted that the only part of that overall property tax bill over which the Township has any control is the municipal purpose tax levy.

“Four years in a row of zero, last year was 1 percent and this year’s is 1 percent, and everyone listening to me knows the inflation climate we’re in,” he said.

That means the Township is responsible for about $12 of the total tax bill increase for the owner of the average-assessed home, he said.

The budget’s public hearing and final adoption is set for the Council’s May 9 meeting.

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