Evesham Township Council introduces 2019 municipal budget with no tax increase

A slight decrease in the municipal tax rate and an increase in the value of the average assessed home in town means flat municipal taxes for residents.

It’s flat taxes for Evesham residents when it comes to the township’s 2019 municipal budget.

Evesham Township Council unanimously approved the introduction of the township’s 2019 budget at this week’s council meeting, with council’s three Democrats and two Republicans all voting “yes” to the introduction of a budget with no increase to the municipal tax rate.

In fact, the municipal tax rate will actually see a slight decrease of .0036 cents per $100 of assessed property value. However, since the average assessed value of homes in town has risen since last year from $270,500 to $272,700, the net result ultimately means a flat municipal tax bill for residents.

And although residents’ municipal taxes will remain flat, officials said the overall budget will actually increase from $38 million to about $39.6 million.

According to Director of Finance Tom Shanahan, just some cost drivers include a state-mandated, $300,000 increase to the police and fire pension system and about a $220,000 increase to police salaries and wages so the township could now budget for a full year of the Class III school resource officer program.

Additional cost drivers include $200,000 in note interest, a nearly $139,000 increase in landfill fees, a $125,000 increase in bond principal payments, a nearly $100,000 increase in civilian pension payments and other additional increases to various line items.

Shanahan said this year’s appropriation to the township’s road program – council approved $3 million earlier this year – was the largest ever in township history.

“Hopefully we can address some of the backlogs we’ve been having in the road program,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan also said the township was at a 1.08 percent debt capacity, which was well below the statutory maximum of 3.5 percent. Regarding surplus, Shanahan said the township had more than $10 million, which had been built up steadily in most years since 2012.

He also noted the efficiency of Evesham Township’s municipal government compared to similar entities.

From 2008 to 2018, Shanahan said Evesham Township saw the lowest overall increase in municipal taxes for the average home when compared to the 10 most populated towns in Burlington County.

During that 10-year span, Evesham’s municipal taxes increased $122, compared to the next smallest increases of $164 for Mt. Laurel Township and $192 for Delran Township, and the largest increases of $464 for Cinnaminson Township and $739 for Willingboro Township.

Per capita, Shanahan said Evesham spends about $827 per resident per year, which is less than the Burlington County average of $978, the Camden County average of $1,308 and the New Jersey average of $1,559.

Also in regard to municipal services, Shanahan pointed to the 2019 responses for the township’s “quality of life survey,” which the township sends to new residents after they’ve lived in town for one year.

The surveys are meant to measure the newer residents’ satisfaction with Evesham Township’s services when compared to where the resident previously lived.

According to Shanahan, 97 percent of residents responded “excellent” or “good” when asked to describe the quality of life in Evesham, and 98 percent of residents responded “excellent” or “good” when asked to rate the quality of services in Evesham Township to the municipality where the resident previously resided.

“Those kinds of positives … I would challenge the corporate sector in ever achieving anything like that,” Shanahan said.

Looking to the future, Shanahan said new revenues in 2020 and beyond would include recurring figures of $350,000 from the Barclay Chase apartment complex and $700,000 from Renaissance Square mixed-use development.

Shanahan also pointed a potential, one-time sale for an estimated $1.8 million from the township’s former DPW site.

For future challenges, Shanahan said the township was approaching buildout, and with that comes a slowdown in ratable growth from new construction and a possible decline in building code fees.

He also pointed to infrastructure costs in neighborhoods that are currently paid for by homeowners, but will eventually fall under the responsibility of the township as the neighborhoods get older.

Before voting to approve the introduction of the budget, Mayor Jaclyn Veasy and several other members of council thanked Shanahan and his department for their effort in crafting this year’s budget while keeping taxes flat.

“We sat down many times to talk about the budget before tonight’s presentation, so I appreciation all the hard work that you put into that, working with the numbers and going through everything,” Veasy said.