CRANBURY, NJ – It wasn't quite Dr. Seuss, but Committeeman Jay Taylor read a mini-filibuster during Monday night's Township Committee meeting, explaining to his fellow committee members and members of the public why he could not, in good conscience, vote to adopt this year's municipal budget.
According to Taylor, the township's debt service is not as onerous a burden this year.
Likening the situation to a year of no car payments, Taylor said that instead of raising the tax rate, the committee should be giving township residents a vacation of sorts, with a net tax increase of zero.
“It's not an issue of right or wrong, it's not an issue of improper accounting or faulty projections, it's simply a situation of how one interprets the data,” he said. “It's just a philosophical difference of when is the appropriate time (to provide residents with tax relief) and this is the year, I think, when looking at the numbers, this is the year to do it.”
Taylor's fellow committee members disagreed on the timing.
Township Administrator and Director of Finance Denise Marabello presented the proposed $11.4 million spending plan, which was approved by a 3-1 vote, following second reading and public hearing.
Committeeman Dan Mulligan was absent from the meeting.
Of the total budget amount, $7.6 million, or 66 percent, is the amount to be raised by taxation, according to budget documents. The new municipal tax rate is 0.47, up a penny from last year. This means that the homeowner with the average household assessed at $579,080 will pay about $57.90 more in municipal taxes this year.
While it includes the library, the municipal tax rate does not include the school district tax rate.
According to budget documents, grants and state aid total 1 percent and 4 percent, respectively, of the 2017 spending plan, with $88,897 in grants and $467,020 in state aid being projected for this year.
At $572,450, 5 percent of anticipated revenue is being drawn from surplus, which this year totals $4.4 million. Available surplus has increased from last year by $1.5 million.
According to budget documents, this year's budget process was driven by several objectives, including a desire to keep controllable operating expenses manageable, control surplus spending, monitor assessed value and maintain a level of service that makes Cranbury a desirable place to live.
Township accomplishments last year included settling the affordable housing plan, negotiating a police contract through 2021, creating a township Facebook page and the Cheney/Hagerty/Kushner property receiving Planning Board and Township Committee approval.
Additionally, last year the carpeting was replaced in Town Hall, Chief of Police Rickey Varga created an online traffic complaint form, the township received a grant to repair John White Road, the township adopted a Memo of Understanding for the proposed future Cranbury Public Library and zoning regulations in the HC and GC areas were amended.
Committeeman Susan Goetz said that she appreciated Taylor's assessment of the data, while agreeing to disagree.
“This really is the first time that we didn't feel totally strangled by what we were trying to do,” she said. “This is the first time that things started to look like they're going in the right direction, with the warehouses coming online, and with the hope that we will be able to offer relief. We're all taxpayers too, so we don't want to raise our own taxes.”
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