To the Editor:
We are residents of Hopewell Township and are writing in support of the 2017 Hopewell Township budget that was introduced last month. It is great to see our committee members working across party lines to deliver increased fiscal discipline and lower taxes. Together, the Committee has held the line on annual municipal tax increases in 2016, and now again in 2017. Over the past two years, they have lowered the average annual tax increase to less than 1.2%, which is well-below New Jersey’s 2% cap, not to mention the more than 6.3% average increases we saw from 2012 to 2015. This is a big step in the right direction.
And the Township’s broader initiative to lower borrowing and reduce debt levels will save additional monies in 2018 and beyond. It is notable that in 2017, Hopewell Township will pay off over $6 million in debt, a reduction of almost 10% in just one year. Like a homeowner with a home equity line of credit with a variable rate, it is critical that we begin reducing our loan balance as interest rates rise.
Finally, we wanted to address the hollow protests on surplus usage from Harvey Lester, the failed Township Committee candidate from 2015. After working closely with the school district over the past several months, the Township determined that $2 million in savings could be achieved by shifting the timing of its payments to the schools in July and August to better align with when Township taxes are paid. This action reduced the amount of money the Township needs to carry in its surplus fund (which functions much like a checking/savings account) to cover these summer payments. It is absolutely appropriate that these monies are now being returned to residents.
Even with these moves, the Township expects to finish 2017 with a surplus balance almost 30% above the past 20-year average of $8 million.
To not return these monies to taxpayers would be akin to asking residents to agree to being taxed at a higher rate, just so the Township could hold another $2 million dollars in a savings account earning less than 1% interest. That makes no sense.
We spoke out in support of the 2017 budget on March 27, and ask you to join us in supporting its final adoption later this month.
Courtney Peters- Manning Lois and Russ Swanson
Lilly Nazzaro Pete Sandford
Linda Rogers Michael Ruger
Note: The opinions expressed in this letter are personal and are not a statement from any Township board or committee.