HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – With the governing body members, staff, professionals and audience members keeping a distance between themselves due to COVID-19 warnings, Hamilton Township Administrator Arch Liston presented the 2020 budget on Monday, March 16 that retains the same tax rate as last year. He had originally intended to introduce the budget, with a public hearing to be scheduled for April 20, but the introduction was postponed until April 6 due to potential funding changes from the state due to the current medical crisis.

The proposed budget amounts to $28,344,794 with $18,170,806 to be raised through the local purpose tax. “The average home that is assessed at $162,463 will pay $1,432 in local tax this year,” Liston said. “The components of that figure include $859 for public safety, $265 for public works, $129 for solid waste collection and $179 for general government, or administrative, services.”

“The township’s part of the overall tax bill amounts to 27.3% while the county’s piece is 18.3%. The school districts take comprises 54.4% of the overall tax rate.”

Liston added that $3,990,395 is being utilized in the budget in surplus funds with a healthy balance remaining of $2.1 million. “That will put us in a good position to start next year,” he said. “We are also purchasing $867,000 in emergency services equipment that had been bonded in the past, as part of the township’s “Pay as We Go Program”. This allows us to continue to lower our bonded indebtedness.”

Liston pointed out that the township’s debt has nearly been cut in half from $22.9 million in 2006 to just under $12 million this year.

The budget also includes continued funding for The Cove Beach, the 9/11 ceremony, Memorial Day ceremony, holiday lighting overtime and supplies, Hometown Celebration and public works and police services for the Halloween Parade.

“What is not in the budget are increased taxes, a reduction in workforce, school tax deferral and reduction of services,” Liston said. “Township employees, except for members of the governing body and some seasonal employees, can expect 2-3% increases with concessions for healthcare benefits.”

Also at the meeting, County Engineer Mark Shourds provided an update on the Cotton Mill Bridge construction project. “The project started on March 9 with the construction of an alternate bridge to relocate the utilities including water, sewer, gas, Comcast and Verizon lines,” Shourds said. “The existing bridge will close on March 23 and will remain closed for about 1 ½ years. The contractor is obligated to complete the project by September 1, 2121.”

“The new bridge will be 105 feet in length and 47 feet and two inches in width and will include six-foot wide sidewalks.”

A discussion ensued about potential traffic issues related to the road closure. Hamilton Township Police Sergeant Wade Smith stated that he has been in constant contact with county officials on the issue. “We have petitioned the New Jersey State Department of Transportation to increase the time for more traffic to flow onto the state highways,” he said.

Both Smith and Shourds said that signage, including message boards, will be provided to direct motorists to the most convenient and direct routes. Shourds added that they will be adding signs to help promote businesses that will be affected by the road closing.

The cost of the project is $6.4 million with funding from the 2015 and 2017 New Jersey Department of Transportation Local Bridges Future Needs Program, NJDOT 2019 County Aid Program and Atlantic County Capital Improvement Bonds.

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