EDISON — Mayor Thomas Lankey said the proposed 2017 budget continues the vows that he made when he came into office four years ago to improve infrastructure, public safety and the township’s reputation.
“I believe this is a prudent budget – one that provides tremendous service to the residents of the town,” he said at a budget presentation meeting before the Township Council on July 12.
The proposed $133.81 million budget is up $5.25 million or 4.08 percent from the 2016 municipal budget.
The municipal and library tax increase is $47. For the average home assessed at the township average of $178,400 in 2017, the homeowner will pay $2,251, an increase from $2,204 in 2016.
The new tax rate is $1.288 per $100 of assessed valuation, up from the 2016 municipal tax rate of $1.267 for the average home. The average home was assessed at $177,695 last year.
The amount to be raised by taxes will increase by $1.75 million. The new tax levy to support municipal services and the public libraries is $91.42 million.
Lankey said it’s important to note that the municipal portion of taxes reflects 17 percent of the tax bill, with 83 percent of the tax bill coming from elsewhere including the county and schools.
The largest appropriations in the proposed budget — roughly 60 percent — are in public safety salary and wages, insurance and benefits.
Lankey showed a power point slide comparison with Woodbridge Township, which he said they compare in size, on the public safety salary and wages, insurance and benefits appropriations.
“We’re almost identical,” he said.
The Edison township police and fire salary and wages total $46.43 million. The health insurance benefits total $22.24 million.
In Woodbridge, police and fire salary and wages total $46.39 million. The health insurance and benefits total $21.9 million.
Lankey said in the next year, he expects tax appeals to decrease. Edison’s outstanding debt of $103 million is less than 20 percent of the legal amount allowed by the state.
The mayor noted that earlier this year Moody’s Investor Service assigned the township’s credit rating at MIG-1, which is the highest possible rating for short term municipal debt.
“Moody’s cited Edison’s strong financial position and solid financial management,” he said.
Helping to hold down property taxes, Lankey said, are significant increases in Edison’s non-tax revenues. These, according to town officials, include collecting more fees for new construction and building renovations; for property maintenance and health inspections; for violation penalties; and by collecting more interest income on the town’s financial investments.
The total assessed value of all taxable properties in Edison Township now stands at $7.1 billion, up $27.5 million from 2016.
In 2013, the total value of all taxable properties in Edison has risen by $102 million.
Lankey said as part of his administration’s strategy of improving infrastructure, township officials committed $57.4 million in capital investment, including $22.8 million in paving, $10.5 million in buildings and facilities, $8.2 million in Department of Public Works equipment, $5.3 million in fire and emergency response equipment, and $4.6 million police equipment.
As for the future, Lankey said when he came into office his goal was to bring the township into the 21st century. He said the town is closer to that goal with the township running more like a business.
Financial strategies for the future, Lankey said, include expanding the tax base through responsible redevelopment and attracting new businesses, stabilizing tax appeals, and utilizing management tools that will enable the township to plan smarter for the future.
Lankey said the township is in the beginning stages of developing a conceptual plan for a new community center and recreational complex to replace the Stelton Community Center on Plainfield Avenue.
He said officials have been looking at space in Camp Kilmer; however, they have to take care of some environmental issues first.
By October, Lankey said a study would be presented to the council.
“We do not build a new community center every year,” he said. “We want to make sure it is right.”
Township officials have been looking for a new space for the Dorothy K. Drwal Stelton Community Center, which had been a former school building. Parts of the building were built in the 1930s and other parts were built in the 1950s.
Lankey said they are also working with the Edison Sheltered Workshop, which utilizes the Stelton Community Center, to find a new space for the workshop in the township as they work on the new community center.
The Township Council is expected to vote and adopt the 2017 municipal budget at a meeting on July 26.