A rough sketch of Moorestown’s fiscal future shows it has enough money to complete most of its major capital projects—without having to raise taxes.
After Councilman Mike Testa to the , claiming he needed to know what the tax impact would be, financial officer Tom Merchel prepared a budgetary outline laying out every financially significant project currently on the township’s plate.
The sum total of the projects on the list—including , $690,000 for the rec center, and $1.4 million for —came to $19 million. Township manager Scott Carew said, based on Merchel’s projections, that $19 million would result in a $1.4 million annual debt service payment (principal+interest) for a 20-year bond, which would lead to a $163 tax increase on the average assessed home ($529,800).
Factoring in the amount of offsetting revenue and savings expected to come the township’s way in the coming months and years, Carew said the cost of doing all those projects is “essentially tax-neutral for the next decade,” and possibly beyond.
Carew readily acknowledged this fiscal blueprint is not totally comprehensive, distinguishing it from Merchel’s detailed budget projections.
“I am admitting up-front, I am not considering every single variable,” said Carew. “It’s a broad argument; it’s not a specific argument … The gist of the argument is that we can afford to do (these projects) because we’re in good financial shape.”
Carew’s and Merchel’s projections span the next 10-20 years, so there’s no way for them to predict unforeseen capital expenses that will almost surely crop up during that time, Carew said.
On the other hand, there are also savings and revenue offsets not accounted for in the projections, such as savings due to higher health insurance contributions from the unions—which kick in next year—tax revenue from new ratables (), and .
“The township is positioned very well for the future,” said Mayor John Button, explaining that fiscal responsibility has been the township’s “modus operandi” for the past several years. “(Carew’s projections) did not surprise me at all.”
Here’s a list of the projects, and their costs, included in Merchel’s and Carew’s projections (all numbers are approximate):
- Purchase of new police vehicles ($404,000)
- Various road improvements ($625,000)
- Resurfacing of New Albany Road ($415,000)
- Municipal complex ($13.3 million)
- Reconstruction of West Spruce Avenue and Magnolia Court ($360,000)
- Improvements to ($423,000)
- Improvements to the Church Street Recreation Center ($690,000)
- Installation of new lighting at and parks ($195,000)
- Improvements to Wesley Bishop North ($1.4 million)
- Repairs to dam ($275,000)
- Miscellaneous other expenses ($800,000)
Carew factored in the following as offsetting revenue/savings (again, all numbers are approximate):
- A $600,000 reduction in the township’s current annual debt service in 2014
- Another $1 million reduction in annual debt service in 2019
- A nearly $900,000 reduction in annual debt service in 2022
- Anticipated annual savings of $500,000 in the reserve for uncollected taxes (beginning in 2014)
- Annual use of liquor license revenue
- $80,000/year savings once the municipal complex is built due to no longer paying rent on
- 15 years of to offset the fields projects (which the township has received in writing, according to Carew)
- once the municipal complex is built
Though Carew and Merchel have advocated the use of liquor license revenue in the budget over a number of years——Carew acknowledged council has not decided on the continued use of that money.
(The projections only include . Depending on the township’s response to , the township could potentially score another $1-$2 million more from the sale of the two additional licenses.)
Carew also pointed out that the use of the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund toward the Wesley Bishop North project——was not factored into these projections.