Lawrence Township officials approve $49.1M municipal budget

With no comment from the public, Lawrence Township Council approved its $49.1 million budget for 2019 by a 4-1 vote at its April 16 meeting.

Mayor Christopher Bobbitt and Township Council members Jim Kownacki, Cathleen Lewis and Michael Powers voted “yes.” Council member David Maffei abstained.

Lawrence Township property owners will see a 2-cent increase in the 2019 municipal budget – from 55 cents per $100 of assessed value to 57 cents.

This means the municipal property taxes on a house assessed at the township average of $281,285 will increase by $56.25 – from $1,547.06 in 2018 to $1,603.32 for 2019.

The 2019 municipal budget is $2.3 million more than the 2018 budget of $46.8 million. Part of the increase is due to contractual obligations, such as salary increases, and the addition of new positions.

The budget includes money for an additional police officer and a third Class III special police officer who will be assigned to the Lawrence Township Public Schools.

There is also money in the budget for a civilian employee, whose time will be divided between the Police Department and the Department of Public Works.

At the Police Department, the employee will help to handle administrative tasks so that a police officer may return to more police-related duties.

Across town at the Department of Public Works, the employee will help with the enforcement of the new brush collection policy. He will work with residents and landscapers to educate them on compliance and to provide a reasonable time for compliance. A summons will be issued as a last resort.

A part-time position in the Recreation Department has been converted into a full-time position, to improve outreach and communications to residents regarding the programs and activities offered by the Recreation Department.

The main source of revenue to support the budget is property taxes. The amount to be raised by property taxes is $26.6 million. The budget also includes $5.6 million in surplus funds and $15.9 million in miscellaneous revenue as funding sources.

Preparation on the 2019 municipal budget began in September 2018, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said. He and Chief Financial Officer Peter Kiriakatis met with the department  heads and listened as they explained their needs.

“What we have arrived at is a responsible budget,” Nerwinski said.

Acknowledging the 2-cent municipal property tax rate increase, Nerwinski pointed out that on Jan. 1, the town was facing a 1-cent increase in the municipal property tax rate.

To put the 2-cent increase in perspective, Nerwinski said, the town is hiring an additional police officer and a third Class III special police officer for the schools. Improvements are being made to the three firehouses to attract and retain volunteer firefighters.

Township Council members seemed pleased with the budget.

Powers said that the township had survived the Great Recession,and now the town is restoring services and even adding more staff – the additional police officer and the Class III special police officer, for example.

Lewis thanked Nerwinski and Kiriakatis. She praised them for discussing the department heads’ needs and reviewing their requests so the departments can be staffed appropriately.

Kownacki said that the 2019 budget is a good budget that focuses on rebuilding staff and looking to the future.

“We are heading in the right direction,” Kownacki said.