East Brunswick council adopts $70.8M municipal budget for 2019

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EAST BRUNSWICK – With a unanimous vote, the members of the East Brunswick Township Council adopted a $70.86 million budget to fund the operation of the municipality during 2019.

Borough Administrator Joseph Criscuolo said the total budget is $70,865,645, which is a $3.62 million increase from the 2018 budget of $67,244,803.

The 2019 tax levy, to be paid by the township’s residential and commercial property owners, is $41.23 million, which is a $1.56 million increase from the 2018 tax levy of $39.66 million, according to Crisuolo.

“The 2019 budget is 3.3% below the township’s revenue property tax levy cap. As most of you know, calculating taxes is really a function of revenues and expenses, so we are going to talk first about our revenue,” Mayor Brad Cohen said.

The council adopted the 2019 municipal budget on May 13. On April 8, Cohen delivered the budget presentation.

Cohen said this year, miscellaneous revenues increased by about $548,000 and that is exclusive of shared service revenue of about $350,000.

“This year we will anticipate increased revenues from redevelopment projects of $550,000, a $250,000 increase from interest income and $175,000 in cable franchise fees,” Cohen said.

“These increases were offset by a reduction in anticipated recreation and camp fees of $230,000 and reduced municipal court revenue of $100,000. Our New Jersey state aid once again this year remains flat at $4,166,600, as well as our Middlesex County Utilities Authority host community benefits of $3.1 million,” he said.

Cohen said this year the township had some significant increases in appropriations. This includes a 13.3% pension increase of $526,000, an 8.8% increase in solid waste costs or $332,000, the township’s debt payments and interest increased a total of $1.16 million year over year as interest on notes increased 50% due to rising rates on borrowing.

“Overall salaries within the cap increased 2.3% as the township settled agreements with the Municipal Employees Association and the Professional Managers Association,” Cohen said. “The township continues to negotiate with the Police Benevolent Association and I am happy to announce we signed a Memorandum of Understanding today with the Superior Officers Association. The contract will need approval of the membership and our Township Council.”

Cohen said he was pleased to report that as a result of efficiencies in staffing, well-run programs and several retirements, the township has been able to control many costs of local government.

“This was accomplished while providing a consistently high level of services. Our health insurance costs, which constitute 15% of total appropriations, were flat this year, and utility and energy costs were relatively flat as well,” Cohen said. “Our community is safe, streets are clean, community and sports programs are plentiful and robust, the library is open and our recycling program continues to expand.”

Cohen said despite interest rates, the township is able to sell notes at a lower interest than other municipalities and continues to avoid bonding at the higher cost as a result of its good credit rating.

“All of this translates into the fact that the revenue needed from municipal taxes to balance our budget this year calls for an increase in taxes of approximately 7.1 cents per $100,” Cohen said. “This is approximately $71 per home assessed at an average market value of $386,000 based on the average assessed ratio.”

This year’s municipal tax rate is $2.16, which is an 8-cent increase compared to last year’s municipal tax rate of $2.08, according to Criscuolo.

Criscuolo said no new municipal employees are being hired and no one is retiring and not being replaced. None of the township’s departments are being eliminated or consolidated.

“I am excited about our future, as redevelopment plans are well underway. We have a well-run town with active and involved residents. My administration has stressed openness and transparency and has set our eyes on the future,” Cohen said.

For more information about the 2019 municipal budget, visit www.eastbrunswick.org/content/202/263/default.aspx.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.