Hopewell Township Committee meets about utility budgets

Baldpate Mountain, Hopewell Township (photo credit: Mary Galioto)

Before their regularly scheduled meeting, the Hopewell Township Committee met in person on March 21 to discuss the 2022 Municipal Budget, focusing on the utility budgets for Princeton Farms and Brandon Farms.  

Council member Kevin Kuchinski stated: “Continuing on with our 2022 budget discussion, we’re going to start with Brandon Farms utilities. But before we go into the specifics [Julie Troutman] will talk about, from a budgetary standpoint, how we treat utilities,” said Kuchinski. 

Treasurer Julie Troutman explained that utilities are not included in the operating budget and are not tax-based. The users of the utilities pay for usage and rent, which is how the utilities are supported. 

“We, as a Committee, still have a responsibility to look at expenses and approve the budgets of the utilities each year,” Kuchinski explained.

Brandon Farms is home to just under 1,700 utility users. Troutman explained that the 2021 revenues from Brandon Farms look different compared to this year because of an operating deficit due to not getting billings out in a timely manner. 

‘In 2021 we budgeted for interest on deposit at $3,800; like our operating budget you can only budget for what we realized. So in this year’s 2022 budget, we can only budget $2800 in interest,” said Troutman. 

Looking at appropriations, which were broken down by salary and wages, Troutman explained that in 2021, $2,100 was budgeted. This year, the Committee is looking to budget $3,600. The two primary reasons for this change are pension coverage and generating a share for the tax collector who does the billing. 

Looking at revenues for Princeton Farms, Troutman explained that the billing for users comes in at a flat rate and are not based on the usage. 212 utilty users are listed at Princeton Farms. 

The interest on deposit is $1,300, which is slightly less than what was budgeted last year based on what was realized. The all in revenue comes in at a total of $326,200. 

Looking at appropriations, there will be the same increase in salary and wages that Brandon Farms saw. 

The all in budget is slightly higher than last year at $432,472. This increase is due to the addition of more salary, wages, pension, medical costs, and overall price of utilities going up.

“Inching up a little bit everywhere adds to that additional surplus usage,” Troutman said. 

The Committee did not talk about Washington-Crossing Estates even though they had planned to. Instead, Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning opened the meeting up to public comment so the regular meeting could start on time. 

A member of the public expressed concern about the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) proposed for the housing development planned to be built to meet the Township’s affordable housing obligations. The PILOT would give $45,000 of compensation to emergency medical services. The questioner asked about any additional money for the fire district. 

Audience members also asked about the demographic school survey, asking if there is money set aside in the budget for a survey. Another concern brought up was about a proposed cannabis retail location being within 500 feet of a school in Pennington Borough. 

Mayor Peters-Manning responded by stating that, at the Hopewell Township cannabis ordinance reading, they had required 1,000 feet from schools. “Different municipalities can handle things in different ways,” said Peters-Manning. 

Regarding the PILOT discussion, Peters-Manning reiterated that the school district sets their budget, the County sets how the budget is paid for and allocates it among tax payers. “There is nothing additional. We collect 100 percent of their [the Township’s portion of the school district’s] budget, so they will get every single dollar no matter what,” Peters-Manning said.

Peters-Manning added that the demographic survey is in the budget, and the Committee will include more details about that in the future.  

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