Benjamin Franklin wrote in a 1789 letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
It was like Franklin had a crystal ball and could see straight to the future of New Jersey.
The 2018 budget proposed and submitted to the Hamilton Township Council calls for an increase in spending resulting in a 5 percent tax increase for residents. Although the increase exceeds the current state-mandated 2 percent cap, Hamilton is able to exceed the increase because it has “banked” or not exceeded the cap in the previous three years.
The $105 million proposed 2018 Hamilton budget calls for a tax hike to help finance nearly $3 million in new spending over last year’s budget. The increase amounts to 4 cents on the municipal tax rate. That would set the 2018 rate at approximately 81 cents per $100 of valuation, or in simpler terms, about $84 per year more for the average homeowner whose house is valued at the median property assessed of $214,300 throughout the town.
Hence if your home is valued more, so will your tax increase.
“The 2018 budget presents challenges arising from significant cost increases beyond the control of the township,” reads the opening statement in Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede’s budget message provided to the council. “The recent string of snowstorms imposed additional financial burdens on the township for expenses related to snow removal, which was complicated by damaged trees and downed power lines. Significant Police and Public Works overtime were incurred.”
The proposed budget includes the addition of 2 police officers which would bring Hamilton Township Police Division from 169 sworn officers to 171, which Mayor Kelly Yaede foreshadowed at the “State of the Township” address earlier in February.
“The increases in spending consist of almost entirely items beyond the control of Hamilton Township,” Yaede says in her 2018 budget message, citing $1.3 million in new spending on group insurance, $384,000 of new pension fund spending into the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, about $275,000 in new spending on garbage or tonnage disposal and over $700,000 in new spending on municipal debt service.
The 2018 budget proposal calls for using $4.5 million of surplus as revenue, which would leave the township with roughly $3.5 million in available in the surplus account.
Hamilton Democratic Council members, who were elected last November and have to vote on the proposed budget quickly shot back in a press statement after the meeting.
“The proposed tax increase by the mayor is unacceptable,” Democratic Hamilton Council President Anthony Carabelli Jr. said Tuesday in a press statement. “I promise the residents of Hamilton that council will work to reduce the burden placed on them by the mayor’s budget. Unfortunately, the over-reliance on debt has led to our current fiscal situation.”
Council Vice President Jeffrey Martin took aim at the Republican mayor and suggested council will explore ways to potentially lessen the burden of Yaede’s proposed tax hike.
“Sadly, the issues we warned residents about last year regarding the mayor’s fiscal mismanagement have come to fruition — a 5 percent increase in taxes necessitated by increased debt/deferred charge payments of over 30 percent in the last two years,” Martin said Tuesday in an emailed press statement. “As we talked about last year, the mayor has repeatedly kicked the can down the road by putting the town’s finances on a credit card; unfortunately, we now have to start paying the bill. We will examine the details of the budget to identify savings to lessen the mayor’s proposed tax increase.”
Councilman Rick Tighue didn’t mince words, chastizing Mayor Yaede in his statement.
“Now we are seeing the consequences of the mayor’s short-sighted budget gimmicks,” Tighe said Tuesday in a press statement. “We will go over this budget line-by-line to ensure every dollar of the budget is necessary and in the best interests of our community. This budget mess could have been avoided with timely, fiscally responsible action, but we will get to work and do what is right for our residents.”
Council President Carabelli has scheduled several springtime budget workshops beginning 5:30 p.m. April 3 at town hall to dissect Yaede’s budget for possible spending cuts.