Moorestown residents will see no tax hike in 2020

Council authorizes use of surplus funds to balance budget.

For Moorestown residents financially strapped by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is some good news: Township council adopted a 2020 municipal budget with no tax increase at its meeting on Monday.

The proposed tax rate of $0.41 per $100 of assessed value remains the same as last year. The average assessed home valued at $455,020 will once again pay $1,883.78 in total local purpose taxes. 

Council had considered a tax increase in early March, but members decided to forego it amid the current pandemic. Instead, the township will utilize approximately $3.2 million in surplus to balance the budget.

The total 2020 tax levy comes in at around $16.9 million, with $15.2 million for the municipal portion and  $1.7 million for the library. That represents a $109,991 increase compared with last year. 

The township has approximately $26.5 million in appropriations, a $278,000 increase compared with 2019. Several factors contributed to the increase, including: a $160,000 increase in the township’s sanitation contract; a debt service increase of $207,000; a pension contribution obligation increase of $108,000, largely for police; and a required library appropriation of $71,000. 

Those appropriations were offset by a handful of budgetary decreases. Salaries and wages were reduced to $49,597 by deferring replacement of all vacant positions, and group Insurance premiums decreased by $140,500. The township’s Capital Improvement Fund contribution was decreased by $145,000 to help offset other increases, and to lessen the impact of COVID, all other discretionary accounts were reduced. 

Chief Financial Officer Thomas Merchel recommended in July that council support a 1.1-cent local purpose tax increase over last year. In that  scenario, the average assessed home valued at approximately $455,000 would see an approximately $50 tax increase. 

Instead, council members asked Merchel to take another look at the budget and present one that utilizes the township’s surplus funds rather than increasing taxes, which he did in August. As a result, the township is using $610,000 more in surplus than it did in 2019. 

The budget was adopted with almost no discussion at the council meeting. Merchel will now submit the budget to the state before it returns to Burlington County for final certification.

Merchel recommended council authorize him to print a leaflet showing how the 2020 budget is broken down to include residents’ upcoming tax bills, for a better understanding of how the money is being distributed and what impact it will have on services. Council approved that move.

The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. in town hall.