Make township more affordable

Kevin Kuchinski, of Hopewell Township
Taxes in Hopewell Township have become a major burden for many of us.
Recently, a longtime member of my parish confided to me that he and his wife planned to move out of Hopewell Valley, not because they wanted to, but rather because they could no longer afford the high taxes here.
Making Hopewell Township more affordable starts with reining in the out-of-control rise in municipal spending. This year’s budget, championed by Mayor Harvey Lester, raises net spending in Hopewell Township by +9 percent, or roughly five times faster than the rate of inflation.
I don’t know about you, but my last pay raise wasn’t anywhere close to +9 percent.
Even worse, Lester raided $850,000 from our emergency fund, using these proceeds to help disguise his +9 percent spending spree and make it appear as if our tax levy only rose +5.28 percent (still the highest increase of any town in Mercer County).
The real issue is that this higher spending will still be with us next year while the monies he misappropriated will be gone forever, penalizing future taxpayers for his poor planning. We can’t afford to continue kicking the can down the road, and we need a change in leadership.
To help dig out of this mess, I am proposing a simple three-part plan to reduce township spending.
First, we need to reduce our net debt, which, at $55.2 million, consumes just under 30 percent of total township spending in the form of debt service. I will accomplish this by selling off properties like Pennytown that we don’t need to meet our affordable housing obligation and using the proceeds to pay down debt.
This one action could quickly eliminate 10 percent of our outstanding debt.
We should also aim to pay off an additional $1 to $2 million in debt each year by spending less.
Second, I will leverage experts across the Valley and work across party lines to identify areas of waste in our current budget. We need to do more with less, challenge “fixed” spending and overheads to drive down costs and support smart ideas, no matter their source.
Finally, we should work to share more services with other municipalities and our schools and ensure township fees cover their underlying costs. I believe we can find $500,000 to $1 million in immediate savings, which I will return to you in the form of lower taxes.
I have 25+ years of experience in the corporate world and have succeeded in smartly cutting spending in enterprises large and small. Julie Blake shares my commitment to making Hopewell Township more affordable and working across party lines to find solutions.
We need new thinking and a change to more responsible leadership. Please join me in voting for Julie on Nov. 3.
I am a member of the Hopewell Township Committee, however, this letter reflects my personal views, not an official committee position. 
Kevin D. Kuchinski 
Hopewell Township 