At its February 22 regular meeting, the Hopewell Township Committee met to hear resolutions regarding the Hopewell Police Department and to hold public hearings for final ordinances that were previously introduced by the Committee.
Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning began the meeting by acknowledging two new resolutions appointing Arthur J. Juba II and Blake S. Demeter as patrol officers in the Police Department.
“In the interview process they were both really impressive human beings and police officers. I’m thrilled that they will be coming to Hopewell Township,” said Peters-Manning.
“I think these officers are the right fit for our Township,” added Police Director Robert Karmazin.
Peters-Manning then turned the meeting over to Director of Public Works George Snyder to discuss the final hearing of an ordinance that would enter the Township into a partnership with Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) for the $250,000 purchase of the Jonathan Walker property along Woosamonsa Road, preserving it as open space. This ordinance would authorize the Township’s 10 percent interest in property.
Lisa Wolff, Executive Director of FoHVOS, told the Committee and other members of the public that the Walker property is the missing piece that will extend the Jacob’s Creek trail to a six-mile walking trail between Woolsey Park and Woosamonsa Ridge.
“It’s taken us over 20 years to acquire all the different pieces, and this is going to be a fantastic gift of green open space trails to the community,” said Wolff.
The property is located at 163 Woosamonsa Road, and there are no agricultural components to the space. The ordinance was adopted.
The next final hearing ordinance was approving the application of, and the execution of a financial agreement with, the US Home at Hopewell Parc Urban Renewal, LLC.
Township Committee member and finance liaison Kevin Kuchinski shared slides with the Committee and public members outlining the planned PILOT agreement.
“What the PILOT does is gives the municipality more flexibility to apply revenue where it may be needed, it may also be used to offset or reduce residential taxes,” said Kuchinski.
Kuchinski also noted that the Hopewell school district is not impacted by the changing allocations, since the school board receives its budget regardless of how the money is collected.
With the current funding formula in place as determined by the County, Township residents currently pay 34 percent more per student enrolled than residents of the boroughs. According to Kuchinski, this amounts to $3.8 million in additional costs for Township residents. The PILOT would move some of that school tax responsibility to the boroughs.
“The focus of this ordinance is to discuss a new PILOT for Hopewell Parc, which will deliver $387 million in new revenues [to the Township] over its 30-year term, which is approximately six times higher than conventional taxes [would raise],” said Kuchinski.
Mayor of Pennington Borough, Jim Davy expressed his concerns on the PILOT agreement to the Committee.
“This PILOT agreement will adversely affect the taxpayers of Pennington Borough by removing or exempting taxable value from the ratable base that the Hopewell Valley school district uses to apportion the amount to be raised on property taxes for educational cost among the three municipalities,” said Davy.
Davy noted that the PILOT does not take into consideration the negative impacts it will have on the other municipalities that share the regional school system.
“The proposed development on Scotch Road will send more children to the school district, and will increase the cost of education for Hopewell Valley,” said Davey. Davy said that as a result, Pennington and Hopewell Boroughs will consume a larger share of the added educational expense of children.
“While there may be seat capacity, there is no teacher labor capacity…this PILOT does not follow the spirit of we are one Hopewell Valley” Davy noted. Many members of the public echoed Davy’s concerns.
“We have no interest in hurting our neighbors, we believe that we are one valley. Right now, the school funding formula disadvantages Hopewell Township taxpayers and that’s not fair,” Peters-Manning assured.
The ordinance was adopted. The next Hopewell Township meeting will be held in person on March 7.
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