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Ewing, NJ 08628

Mayor Bert Steinmann Presents Budget Introduction to Town Council

Mayor Bert Steinmann delivered his annual budget presentation to Council at the April 23, 2024 Township Council meeting.

You can read his introduction and statement below: 

Council President Kevin Baxter, members of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to come before you tonight to introduce my proposed annual budget for 2024. I want to thank our CFO, Joanna Mustafa, and the Finance Department, our Business Administrator Aaron Watson and all our directors for their efforts to live within our means by advancing fiscally responsible budgets that meet the needs – and expectations – of our residents.

I also wish to thank the Council for its partnership with the administration on all our past budgets. Together, we have been able to achieve long-term financial health through our cautious approach to budgeting.

Tonight, I present to you a proposed general operating budget of $63.2 million, which is more than $2 million under cap. The proposed municipal tax levy is $34.6 million, representing a modest 2.13 percent increase over last year. In dollars and cents, the owner of an average home in Ewing would see an increase of just 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, or $60 for a house assessed at $300,000.

As in previous years, I propose using a reasonable amount of surplus -- $3 million -- to balance the budget. I anticipate that the amount of surplus used will be regenerated because of our above-average collection rate. Maintaining a healthy rainy-day fund is recognized as a best practice. Our stellar AA-rating is evidence that rating agencies have full confidence in our financial management.

Some of the expenses driving this spending plan are contractual salary increases and multiple new hires to fill vacancies due to retirements. Among those are 10 police officers, 8 firefighters, 2 EMS and 9 Public Works employees. Another budget driver that is currently out of our control is the increase to municipalities enrolled in the New Jersey State Health Benefits Plan. The State enacted an increase of 20 percent to us while only increasing its state employee members by 3 percent. I think this is unfair, and we may need to explore other options and alternative providers.

Let me add, we are seeing skyrocketing costs in our recycling, our general liability insurance, health care, general costs of living and post-pandemic inflation. Under budget rules, we could seek an increase of up to 8 cents of $100 of assessed value, and the fact that we are proposing such a modest increase again speaks to our effort to reduce the impact on our residents.

Other expected items of revenue include $6.8 million in grant funds -- $6 million of which will go toward the construction of our new Ewing Senior Community Center -- and employee contributions to their healthcare estimated at $1.1 million. Also, cannabis sales tax revenue, which is anticipated to be about $112,000, and when the cannabis cultivator site ramps up, we project even greater revenue in this market sector.

Among the grants received in 2023 is the 3-year federal SAFER fund, which is going toward training 5 new firefighters in operations and emergency response to help keep our residents safe.

In other positive news, we are increasing communication efforts between our residents and my administration as reflected on our social media channels and our website. We will continue to look for ways to communicate more effectively and inform our residents about what we are doing to improve Ewing. Our dedicated employees understand the importance of responding efficiently to our residents and businesses. I see our communications as a two-way street, and I thank the public for taking their time to bring questions and issues to our attention. 

While we are increasing the level of service we provide to our residents, we are also ensuring our work environment is always professional. To reinforce this, we are creating an official Human Resources director position who will lead mandatory training and ensure our employees are fit to serve the public.

In the area of Economic Development, I am thrilled to report that we are entering into the next phase of redevelopment on Parkway Avenue at the former Navy Jet Propulsion Site. Demolition commenced yesterday, and I know the council is as excited as I am to bring this development plan to fruition. We are continuously looking to bring in new businesses and retain existing businesses, and my administration is willing to put in the necessary work so that we can help Ewing Township grow and thrive.

Finally, I would like to thank all members of the Council and the residents for your continued support. Thank you to the many individuals who have reached out to me directly to offer their thoughts and constructive ideas to better our community. We appreciate your patience as we listen to your concerns and find different ways to move the Township forward. We strive every day to keep Ewing Township a great place in which to live, work, and raise a family.

Thank you.

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