HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — After years of higher taxes, Hamilton Township Committee is making a habit of eliminating increases. And the residents are no longer complaining.
Township Committee held a public hearing on its proposed $25.3 million 2013 budget Monday that keeps the tax rate stable at 74.1 cents per $100 assessed value.
The budget is about $52,000 less than the previous year, and more than $1 million less than the 2011 spending plan. Due to tax appeals reducing the value of homes, the average taxpayer with a home valued at $184,500 will pay $1,367 in municipal taxes — a reduction of $20.
Over the past two years, the committee has enacted several new initiatives to ensure spending is reduced. This includes a new “pay as you go” mandate that has the township purchase items with available funds instead of securing bonds.
Between 2002 and 2012, residents had their municipal taxes increase by more than 120 percent.
The last increase in 2011 was especially rocky, as residents filled the Municipal Building to protest. Facing a $2.4 million shortfall, the committee laid off 20 percent of the township work force, including 13 police officers. That year also included a tax increase of 2 percent.
But not a single member of the public spoke during Monday’s budget hearing.
“Really? I’m offended,” joked Mayor Amy Gatto. “It’s been years listening to bad stuff. What about now that it’s good?”
Gatto said the township, which has reduced its number of employees from 177 in 2007 to 118 currently, is committed to the new approach.
“We have heard you and we have listened,” she told the audience. “Government has gotten smaller, it is smaller, and it’s certainly my intention it stays smaller.”
Committeeman Roger Silva also pointed out the budget is almost $1.3 million less than what would be allowed under the state’s 2 percent cap.
The committee will cast a final vote on the budget at its April 15 meeting. They have one budget amendment to make to appropriate $500,000 due to an ongoing tax appeal of a large property.
The budget also includes no layoffs or furloughs and no reduction in township services.
Also at the meeting, the township approved legal representation for former township police Officer Peter Burns.
Burns is part of a lawsuit filed against the township by former Deputy Mayor Charles Cain, who was arrested for drunken driving in 2011.
Cain, who ultimately pleaded guilty last year, claimed the department targeted him because of the committee’s plans to lay off police officers.
The committee provided similar protection last month for other officers involved in other lawsuits.
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