Home » Hopewell Township approves new budget

Hopewell Township approves new budget

by Deborah Howlett

The Hopewell Township Committee on Monday unanimously approved a $26.3 million budget that slightly reduces the municipal tax rate even as it increases spending by nearly 2% over last year.

The budget numbers benefitted greatly from a 2.7% increase assessed valuation of Hopewell Township properties over last year.

Even so, Township Committee member Kevin Kuchinski said that the Township Committee and staff worked diligently to control spending, pare down municipal debt, and restore the budget surplus to pre-COVID levels. “We had the philosophy: It’s your money and we work to get the best out of your dollar,” he said.

He pointed out that the increased spending is well below the 5% national inflation rate.

The spending plan includes funding to replace the turf field at Twin Pines, purchase a new SUV for the township police department, digital updates to the townships tax maps, and preservation work at the historic Hart Schoolhouse.

The $800,000 to replace the 11-year-old turf field at Twin Pines was cobbled together from reserved user fees, “roll back” tax payments from affordable housing developers, and state grants. Final approval of the expenditure will be taken up at the next Township Committee meeting on May 14.

The turf replacement was part of a Recreation Department request that also included converting an existing but unused baseball field into another soccer field and resurfacing of tennis courts at Independence Park. The soccer field conversion will be done as part of regular municipal operations but the work on the tennis courts was pushed off for another year. 

The budget also accounts for $413,133 in increased salary, pension and health insurance costs for municipal employees — a 20% increase over last year Additionally, the budget restores the surplus fund balance to more than $11 million — the highest level since 2015.

One of the ongoing concerns for the Township Committee is the continued reduction of municipal debt levels. 

The budget provides $6.4 million to service that debt, which represents 24% of the overall spending. The committee has worked to reduce the debt and find ways to fund new capital projects without incurring more debt. 

Kuchinski said that in the next year or two, a substantial portion of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) from developers will be dedicated to reducing that debt.

Collections from the local tax levy provides 66% of the municipal revenue, with 8% coming from surplus, 7% from state aid, and 6% from local revenues.The budget also includes $928,250 in federal funds for COVID support through the American Rescue Plan.

The budget is available at https://www.hopewelltwp.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/606

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