The residents of Hopewell Township charged us with getting spending under control, fighting for lower taxes and reducing Township debt, and I am proud that Hopewell Township’s 2017 Budget delivers on all three.
First, touching on spending. In 2017, our core operating budget, which excludes the direct purchase of capital items, fell by 1.1%. Over the past two years, the committee has cumulatively reduced annual operating expenses by over $2 million. We are doing more with less across the township, while restoring valuable services like bulk waste, rebuilding our public works fleet, and covering the increased costs of the unfunded state mandate on affordable housing. And our new partnership with the school district saved over $2 million, which we are returning to residents.
Once again, Hopewell Township will have the lowest municipal tax rate in Mercer County. Hopewell Township’s tax rate this year is up 1.7%, which is below NJ’s 2% cap and the rate of inflation. This is also a big improvement vs. the average 6.3% increases we endured from 2013-15.
Finally, on debt, we made significant inroads towards our multi-year plan to cut debt, reducing it by $6.1 million or almost 10% in 2017. This is important progress as the township currently spends approximately $1.7 million per year on interest expenses. That’s money that adds to everyone’s tax burden without delivering any corresponding goods or services to residents.
This committee has made hard decisions today so that in the future, residents will not still be paying for past years’ expenditures.
Looking ahead, I want to assure residents that we will continue our fight for more effective and efficient municipal government, and to make Hopewell Township more affordable. We will scour the budget for every dollar and review every expense before we spend residents’ money.
Thank you to residents for your continued support.
Mr. Kuchinski is the mayor of Hopewell Township.