$18.5 million budget introduced in borough

A public hearing will be held June 25.

By: Jennifer Potash
   The Princeton Borough Council voted unanimously Tuesday to introduce the 2002 municipal budget, which carries a 3.5-cent increase in the tax rate.
   The public hearing on the $18.5 million budget will be held June 25.
   The proposed municipal tax rate is 67.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, under which the owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $346,639 would pay $2,340 in municipal taxes, an increase of $121 or 5.5 percent. By comparison, the 2001 municipal budget, which was also $18.5 million, carried a 2-cent increase in the tax rate.
   The borough, like most municipalities, will receive state aid at 2001 levels and some revenues, such as sewer fees, are expected to decline in 2002, borough officials said.
   Since the budget was first proposed in February, more than $400,000 was cut from operating expenses. The budget does not contain any new staff positions.
   Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi proposed a 4.5-cent tax increase in order to leave a larger cushion in the borough’s surplus accounts.
   Mayor Marvin Reed expressed concern regarding a $135,000 transfer from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to the borough. The money, originally budgeted at $35,000, is a partial payment on costs the borough incurred during the purchase of the Shirley Court and Maclean Street properties in the 1980s. Those units were razed and 16 new affordable and market-rate townhouses were completed in 2001.
   Mayor Reed said the borough does not have complete figures on how much the borough’s nonprofit affordable-housing corporation owes the borough for the land acquisition costs.
   Also, if the borough keeps anticipating transfers of $135,000, it will be a "shock" to the budget when those payments cease, Mayor Reed said.
   He recommended gradually stepping down the amount in subsequent budgets.
   Councilman David Goldfarb urged his colleagues to think about cost-saving measures now for the 2003 budget, since the borough’s surplus account will likely be lower next year.
   "There will be a real budget shock next year … unless we change the way we do business at Borough Hall," Mr. Goldfarb said.
   In other action, the council unanimously adopted an ordinance creating a parking utility that will put all the borough’s parking operations under a single line in the municipal budget. Officials said the measure will permit the borough to keep a better record of the costs and revenues of parking lots, on-street parking and later the municipal parking garage.