BERNARDS TWP., NJ - UPDATE: The 2015 municipal budget was unanimously adopted by the Bernards Township Committee on April 28. The figures did not change from when the budget was introduced on March 24, said Terri Johnson, the township's Chief Financial Officer.

The cost of winter cleanups, and additional money in the township's capital fund are some of the stresses on this year's proposed $38.6 million municipal budget to cover local municipal operations, township financial officials told the Township Committee before Tuesday's budget introduction.

According to the figures online, the proposed budget for 2015 would add $62.23 onto the property tax bill of an average township home, assessed at $631,828. Last year's average home assessment was $610,582, according to township figures.

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The amount to be raised by local taxes to fully fund total budget appropriations is scheduled to increase to $18.8 million this year, up from $18.29 for 2014, the township's figures say.

All year long, Bernards Township municipal officials say they plan carefully and budget stringently to keep a tight rein on township finances. However, there's one thing they can't control -- what Mother Nature decides to dish out in terms of snow and ice during the winter.

So far for this year, Bernards Township has spent approximately $640,000 to clear roads and clean up after a seemingly ceaseless series of ice and snow events, Johnson said following March 24's budget introduction.

February was the worst month for weather-related cleanups, Johnson said in March.

But March, as of 24th, has been the priciest month for weather costs that total $300,000, she said. That figure includes $79,000 for salt to melt ice that is on order, Johnson said after the Township Committee meeting that included the budget introduction.

"We had back-to-back two hard winters," Township Administrator Bruce McArthur pointed out during the meeting.

Each year, the township tries to set aside $500,000 in a special reserve for storm cleanups, McArthur said.

Johnson said the harsh winter of 2014 cost Bernards Township $700,000.

Johnson later added that the snow budget for 2015 has been full spent already but she has about $100,0000 unspent in the operating line for wnter cleanups. She said she expects most of that money will be used to fill salt domes.

During January the township spent $113,000 on winter cleaups, and $227,00 in Feburary, Johnson said. 

The cost of winter cleanups, and additional money in the township's capital fund are some of the stresses on this year's proposed $38.6 million municipal budget to cover local municipal operations, township financial officials told the Township Committee before Tuesday's budget introduction.

Although the township capital fund rose from about $2 million to $4.7 million, a chunk of that amount, $1.6 million will be paid for by $1.1 million to be used from reserves in the open space fund, coupled with another half-million dollars raised by the sale of pieces of open space to be preserved by Somerset County, officials said. That amount cove rmost of the $1.7 million cost of installing synthentic turf fields at Mountain Park.

The need to upgrade aging roads and other infrastructure are another expense that increased the capital budget, township officials say.

The township's open space tax will end as of 2017, and after that time the township hopes to have an opportunity to beef up the roads account, Johnson noted.

Preliminary figures already have been on the township website since earlier in March. A public hearing and final committee vote for adoption was scheduled for April 28's meeting at the municipal complex at 1 Collyer Lane in downtown Basking Ridge.