BERNARDS TWP., NJ - A preliminary look at a 2018 municipal budget that would increase spending for local infrastructure, primarily road improvement projects, is one of the foremost items on Tuesday's Township Committee agenda.

The 2018 budget preview posted on the township website would keep the municipal tax rate for this year almost flat. If approved by the Township Committee as is later this spring, the municipal portion of the overall township property tax rate would drop by a tenth of a penny, to 29.3 cents from the 29.4 cents per $100 of assessed property value in 2017.

The four-cent township open space tax, which raised $2.7 million, ended in 2017, with about 20 percent of the township preserved through some sort of land preservation program, according to the municipality. 

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However, the budget as proposed would increase the municipality's capital expenditure budget by $2.5 million in 2018 "In an effort to maintain our aging infrastructure, primarily the roads), Terri Johnson, Chief Financial Officer for Bernards Township, said in response to an email from TAP Into Basking Ridge.

The proposed budget includes an additional $1.1 million for roadway management, $600,000 for pedestrian bridge costs, $750,000 for rescue equipment for emergency responders, and $20,000 to address pedestrian safety on Allen Road in The Hills.

The total budget for road projects, not including some related expenses in other accounts, is proposed at $3.15 million for this year, Johnson added on Tuesday.

The balance of the increase this year will be due to other rising operating expenses for 2018, including a 5.2 percent increase to the cost of police pensions, and a 3.2 percent increase for local employee pensions other than police, according to township figures.

Health insurance costs are flat this year, and insurance costs for the municipality are down by $44,000 for 2018, the budget overview stated.

The formal budget Introduction is set for the March 13 Township Committee meeting, with the vote on the budget adoption set for the April 10 meeting. Further details are on the finance department's page on Bernards Township website.

The municipal budget makes up less than 15 percent of a property owner's total property tax bill, according to township figures.

Tuesday's agenda also includes receipt of a letter from Somerset County stating that the 1931 Valley Road bridge over the Passaic River connecting Bernards and Long Hill townships is structurally deficient, and requires further study.

Other items on the agenda include an update on the status of state affordable housing requirements, contract awards and interlocal agreements.

Meeting scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at town hall

The agenda states that the meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the main meeting room at the town hall at 1 Collyer Lane in Basking Ridge.