In budget talks, Hopewell Township Committee strives to reduce debt

The Hopewell Township Committee met for a special meeting on February 28 to discuss the Township budget and other resolutions. 

Municipal Clerk Laurie Gompf, began the meeting with the roll call. Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning then went over the resolutions on the agenda. 

The first resolution to pass was establishing a temporary capital budget. Treasurer Julie Troutman explained that since the Township does not yet have an adopted municipal budget, they need to put in place a capital budget in order to move forward with the ordinance.  

The next resolution to pass was the urging of a swift passage of S-330 which restores energy tax receipts. “Taxes on gas and electric utilities are collected by the State and are supposed to be passed on to the municipalities, but instead the State uses these receipts as they see fit and will send us municipal aid without passing along these energy taxes,” explained Peters-Manning. 

Peters-Manning told the Committee that there is currently a Bill in the Senate that will change this practice and that the vote could be in as early as this week. 

With resolutions done, the Committee moved on to the 2022 budget discussion. 

Committee member Kevin Kuchinski began the discussion by reminding the Committee of their principle — to not take on more debt than they paid off* in the previous year. Before introducing the 2022 capital budget ordinance, Troutman reviewed some exhibits for the Committee. 

 “Since we’re not taking up Open Space purchases as part of the 2022 budget, the goal this year was to get the capital budget below the $5.455 million dollar number so that we could long-term continue to reduce the Township’s debt,” said Kuchinski. 

Troutman then pulled up a summary of the 2022 capital budget so that they could touch upon key projects. The larger departments were asked to prioritize their key items. Smaller items with a shorter useful life were shifted into the operating budget; since the policy is to not capitalize them. There also are grants listed such as having money set aside for the Harbourton-Rocktown Road program. 

Kuchinski reminded the Committee that the final thing Troutman does is to scour prior year capital ordinances to see if there is any money that has already been borrowed or if money can be repurposed. 

“We were able to repurpose $545,000 dollars from previous year ordinances and the bulk of that money was from the roads program; one of the benefits of being able to go out early with the capital budget is that we not only get our roads done sooner, but we also get lower bids because we go into a market that’s a slower season for contractors,” explained Kuchinski. 

The net capital requested after grants and repurposing is $5.1 million. Kuchinski noted that they are required to put down a minimum of 5 percent, which is $256,000 dollars.  

“We are coming in at a proposed capital budget for 2022 at $4.8 million, which is just under $600,000 dollars less than what we paid off last year,” said Kuchinski.

Responding to a question from MercerMe later, Peters-Manning said that why Kuchinski’s statement is important is that while capital budgets are always funded by debt, the Township strives to borrow less each year than they paid off the year before. “That lowers the overall debt and saves taxpayers money,” she said.

The public hearing regarding the 2022 capital budget will be held on March 21.

Edited 3/10 to correct Kuchinski’s quote. Previously, it incorrectly quoted him as saying to “did” rather than “paid off”.

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