One of the most important responsibilities of the Hopewell Township Committee is to prepare an annual budget. The budget plan establishes Township spending priorities and affects every resident.
Significant work goes into preparing the annual budget. The Township staff begins working on the budget in September, and the Township Committee begins public meetings to discuss the budget in December and January. We typically introduce the budget in late March or April, with a public hearing and final adoption coming in May.
The budget has two main sections. The capital budget covers long-term spending projects and purchases of equipment with a useful life greater than five years. The operating budget covers items such as day-to-day Township expenses, salaries, insurance, debt payments, and purchases of equipment with a useful life of less than five years.
In 2020, for the first time, the Township Committee developed and approved the capital budget in February, well before the May adoption of the full budget. This small change in timing not only enabled us to accelerate the timing of our road projects, but also saved residents money as we were able to get bids and lock in contractors earlier in the season, when they were less busy. This strategy, along with lower oil prices, resulted in savings of $1.8 million dollars compared to our initial construction cost estimates, representing a reduction of approximately 25%.
This year, we followed a similar process and adopted the capital budget in March. This year’s $4.8 million capital program funds important long-term Township priorities, including road maintenance and repair and new Public Works, Police and Health vehicles and equipment.
With respect to the Police Department, I am very pleased that we are lowering costs by purchasing more efficient vehicles. These new hybrid vehicles can power all of the on-board electrical equipment through battery power, allowing the engine to be shut off while on traffic duty and saving up to $3500 per vehicle per year in fuel costs. This an important step forward for both our wallets and the environment.
And, as in years past, the amount of new debt that we are taking on in 2021 will be less than the debt we are paying off. This saves money over time as lower debt leads to lower interest costs. Since 2014, we have cumulatively reduced Hopewell Township’s debt by over 20%.
On April 19, the Township Committee introduced the operating budget. The Committee will have a public hearing and vote on the operating budget on May 17th, and residents are invited to attend.
As we look towards 2022, we will continue to work to build on this progress. We are always interested in finding new approaches and more efficient technologies that save money. Your ideas and suggestions are welcome.
Kevin D. Kuchinski,
Hopewell Township Committee Member
Finance Liaison for the Hopewell Township Committee