To the editor:
As the Democratic candidate for the Hopewell Township Committee, I’ve spent the past seven months going door to door to learn about your concerns. Again and again, you’ve told me that Hopewell Township is becoming unaffordable and that high taxes are forcing many residents to leave. I share these concerns and will work across party lines to lower taxes, so that from young families to seniors, we can all stay in the community we know and love.
I am sorry to report that under my opponent’s leadership, the township has failed to respond to these concerns. With Harvey Lester leading the way, the Republicans on the Township Committee approved a 9 percent net spending hike for 2015, and Hopewell Township’s tax levy increased faster than any other town in Mercer County, rising over 2.5 times more than our 2 percent cap. At a time when we should be tightening our belts, Hopewell’s total spending rose from $21 million in 2014 to $24.6 million in 2015.
To pay for this spending increase, the township is using its emergency funds and borrowing money to meet its regular expenses. An incredible 29.21 percent of our budget goes to paying for debt service! And Hopewell is now taking on more long-term debt to buy equipment like new lawn mowers with a useful life of less than 10 years. We should be using our limited township funds to keep up with road maintenance, as deferring those costs will result in much higher repair costs in the years ahead.
Mr. Lester’s misuse of monies from our emergency fund creates similar problems for township residents. Mr. Lester raided almost $650,000 from this fund to help cover his 9 percent spending increases and make it appear as if our tax levy only rose 5.28 percent. The raided monies are gone forever, but the higher base spending remains and will most likely lead to even higher taxes.
This is not a healthy way to run local government. When you start borrowing money and using your emergency fund to pay for increased spending, you leave yourself with two choices: increase taxes or look around for big developers who will bail you out.
As your Hopewell Township committee member, I will fight reckless spending, pay down our debt, and insist that we make Hopewell affordable again.
I hope you will support me on Nov. 3.
Julie Blake is the Democratic candidate for Hopewell Township Committee.
To the editor: