HAMILTON, NJ – Hamilton Township Mayor Jeff Martin will present his inaugural budget Tuesday night before the Township Council. Martin said Administration officials "reviewed the budget line-by-line to see where any savings could be realized" to close a nearly $8 million budget gap.
At the end of 2019, Hamilton had approximately $6.1 million in surplus funds available despite the former Yaede Administration estimating that Hamilton would be able to use $6.6 million in surplus to balance 2020’s budget. This amount is in stark contrast to the $9.2 million available in surplus the prior year.
As of January 1, 2020, Hamilton found itself in a budget hole of roughly $4 million, the largest portion of which was from a decrease in available surplus funds
The Township also has been faced with numerous cost increases, almost entirely out of its control, when compared to the 2019 adopted budget. These increases total $2.125 million in operating expenses.
Martin said that the "2020 Budget was going to be a difficult budget for Hamilton Township starting on the very first day of the year" but the municipality's financial situation was compounded by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Township was put in an even more difficult budgetary position. This administration has made many difficult decisions over the past few months that impact our employees, our residents and our businesses, but which we believe puts Hamilton on a stronger financial foundation," said Martin.
Martin noted that while the "federal government provided bailouts to the cruise industry, airline industry and many others to make up for lost revenues, it has not provided similar relief to local governments."
Hamilton anticipates revenue losses ranging from $300,000 in Municipal Court fees, $450,000 in bank interest income, $25,000 on golf center revenue, and others totaling $1.85 million as a result of the pandemic.
Recently, Martin announced an agreement with public employee unions to furlough almost all part-time employees, cut overtime, and cancel many local favorite activities such as Azalea Fest due to both health and budget concerns. These cuts total more than $650,000.
In addition, almost all Township employees on expired contracts have agreed to a one-year contract extension which includes a zero percent pay raise this year and other one-time savings. The Township is working to secure the commitment to these savings from the other unions as well.
These savings, once agreed to by all unions, will result in a savings of approximately $1.25 million.
“Our township employees also gave back so that not all of the burden fell on our residents and businesses,” stated Martin. “I want to publicly thank them not only for their commitment in getting the job done each and every day but also for their partnership in being part of the solution to overcoming our budgetary problems. “
Despite these efforts to reduce spending and find savings, Martin said "they are not enough to overcome the significant budget hole Hamilton faces." As a result, the 2020 budget contains a tax increase of 4.4 cents.
For an average Hamilton home valued at $225,000, this increase will result in a local tax increase of $8.33 per month.
“We do not take this increase lightly, especially with the state of today’s economic picture,” said Martin. “However, this year’s budget is nearly $500,000 less than 2019’s adopted budget and is $2.3 million less than what was forecasted for the 2020 budget. This means we made cuts everywhere we could without putting our residents’ health and safety at risk.“
Martin will fully present his budget at the Council meeting Tuesday night at 6:30 pm via teleconference. Residents can find instructions on how to join the call on the Township website, www.HamiltonNJ.com. The meeting will be archived on the Township website to be available at a later date.
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