EAST WINDSOR: Township proposes budget with tax increase

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
   EAST WINDSOR — The Township Council proposed a 2012 municipal budget that would result in a tax increase of less than $4 per month for the average homeowner.   
   The proposed budget calls for a municipal tax rate increase of 1.08 cents, which equates to 41.06 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at the township average of $264,000 would see a municipal tax bill of about $1,098, an increase of $47 from last year.
   The total proposed budget is for $20,283,707.
   "However excluding (a) camera program for which an identical appropriation and revenue are incorporated for a ‘wash,’ the actual net budget is $20,193,307 — which represents a reduction of over $39,000 from the 2011 adopted budget of $20,232,321,” Mayor Janice Mironov told the Herald on Thursday.
   "(The) 2012 budget is $1 million less than the 2009 adopted budget,” she said.
   The budget was proposed at the Wednesday night Township Council meeting. No official action was taken.
   The 2012 proposed budget lists a $10,000 revenue increase from the Saint James Village Senior Citizens Complex increasing it to $130,000 in 2012 from $120,000 in 2011.
   In 2011, the township anticipated $698,077 for receipts from delinquent taxes and anticipates an increase of $735,000. The actual amount of delinquent taxes for 2011 was $590,363.
   There is also a new item listed among anticipated revenues for 2012. $90,400 has been anticipated from police camera enforcement.
   At the March 7 meeting, it was stated that the proposed budget would neither cut municipal staffing nor reduce it. All township services and programs would also stay intact.
   The 2012 proposed budget is set to be introduced at the Township Council meeting on March 20. If approved, a second reading would then likely be scheduled in April.
   The budget is more than $3.5 million under the state’s municipal expenditure limitation law with respect to the property tax cap, Mayor Mironov said.
   "Under state tax levy cap, EWT could raise taxes by another 1.3 cents more — we remain $362,257 under property tax levy law,” Mayor Mironov said.
   At Wednesday night’s meeting, Mayor Mironov said, “We’ve had several budget workshop sessions.”
   She continued, “We meet with the departments and basically went line by line, page by page, and went through a number of questions.”
   As the budget discussion began, the mayor had the council look at the certification letter from the state.
   According to Mayor Mironov, the town has lost $905,000 from 2010 from the energy tax receipts alone as well as in 2009 and 2008.
   "It takes a big toll on the fund balance and in replenishing the fund balance. Over the past five years, the fund balance decline has been $4 million,” Mayor Mironov said.
   The township’s reserve fund is at $937,098 and accounts for five percent of the budget.
   ”I think at this point it represents a responsible and fiscally conservative maintenance budget that will serve our residents,” Mayor Mironov stated.
   "These are really very stressful times and it’s very difficult certainly for everyone and very difficult for us the municipal as well to marshal the resources and funds and to develop a spending plan that we think is fair and is going to serve the needs of our community and that’s the goal of our and intention,” Mayor Mironov said.
   Noteworthy, Senator Linda Greenstein of New Jersey’s 14th Legislative District, Mercer County Board of Freeholder Chair Lucylle Walter, Mercer County Board of Freeholder Ann Cannon and Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello were in attendance. Past Mercer County Freeholder Elizabeth Muoio was also present.
   "We want to help,” Sen. Greenstein said on energy tax reform.
   According to Sen. Greenstein, there are Assembly and Senate bills that that would rewrite the collection process of the energy tax receipt money so the state could no longer hold onto the money originally intended for towns.
   "The legislator has begun thanks, I think, because to the mayor and the League of Municipalities and they work that they have been doing,” Sen. Greenstein said.
   Next council meeting will be March 20 at 8 p.m. at the East Windsor Municipal Building, 16 Lanning Blvd.