Letter to the Editor: 2018 Hopewell Township Budget by Deputy Mayor Blake

To the Editor:

On April 23rd, the Hopewell Township Committee voted to approve our 2018 budget.

I am proud that our municipal budget in 2018 will be kept to a disciplined and responsible 2.48% increase that will result in less than a one cent increase in the tax levy.  The Township is holding the line on taxes while managing the increasing costs of state mandated Affordable Housing, fighting the PennEast Pipeline, and bringing back valuable services like Bulky Waste pick-up.

In 2018, we have kept our costs low and still been able to hire essential personnel for the Police Department, our Community Development Office and Public Works, and we have increased hours for the assistant in the Recreation Department. In addition, long-term dedicated staff were recognized for their efforts and given merit raises.  Even with these new staff hires and raises, our total operating budget will be less in 2018 than it was in 2015.

It is important to remember that our current Hopewell Township Committee has raised the tax levy less over the past three years in total than the 2015 Committee did in one.  We’ve reduced our expenses by $200,000 from 2017 and 5.9% since 2015.  In the last three years, the Hopewell Township Committee budgets have increased, on average, by less than 2%.

With a lot of careful and intentional planning, we have also dramatically reduced our debt by $1.8 million in 2018; over the past two years, we have reduced the Township’s overall debt by 12%.  Working with our outstanding Finance Advisory Committee,  the Hopewell Township Committee has budgeted for a regular cycle of police car replacements and a sustainable snow removal plan.  We have increased down payments on capital projects and items depending on their estimated life.  By reducing our debt, we ensure future saving on interest costs.

Because we know how important it is to plan for unexpected expenses, the proposed budget will allow us to maintain a fund balance or surplus of $10 million, a total 35% higher than our 20 year average.  Protecting this balance is vital to preserving the Township’s AAA bond rating, which will help us reduce future costs.

With my fellow Committee Members, I will continue to look for opportunities to increase shared services, keep a rein on spending, and be responsible stewards of our residents’ tax dollars.

Julie Blake

Hopewell Township, Deputy Mayor

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