May 11, 2021
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–This evening, the Martin administration introduced the 2021 municipal budget to Township Council which features a flat tax rate. Mayor Jeff Martin’s budget address can be found below:
The last year has been extraordinarily difficult not only for Hamilton, but the World. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused numerous disruptions both individually and as a community. However, with our vaccine rollout well underway, brighter days lay ahead. Likewise, the 2021 budget projects brighter days ahead for Hamilton.
First, let me begin by recognizing the extraordinary work of Hamilton’s municipal employees. Throughout the pandemic, they have come to work each day in service to our Township. Thanks to their dedication and hard work, our town successfully continued operations throughout the pandemic to provide so many essential services to our residents and businesses. Our Water Pollution Control (Sewer), Police Division, and Health Department answered the call each and every day, unable to take a day off. My appreciation goes out to their leaders – Carrie Feuer, Chief James Stevens, and Kathy Fitzgerald for steering their respective departments through difficult times.
The 2021 budget I present to you recognizes the continued responsibilities we have in the face of COVID-19 while respecting the difficult financial hardship many of our residents and businesses continue to face. In light of that recognition, this budget keeps taxes flat for 2021. The 2020 municipal tax rate of .822 cents is added to the combined 2020 fire tax rate of .333 cents to create our new combined 2021 tax rate of 1.155. Even while keeping taxes flat, we recognize the importance of investing in our Township to create a brighter future for Hamilton Township.
For the first time, Hamilton has created an office of Vacant and Abandoned Properties (VAP). Under the direction of Director Fred Dumont, our VAP office is charged with identifying abandoned properties and working on turning those properties around. These properties are eyesores for neighbors – driving down property values; presenting challenges to our public safety professionals, both as fire hazards and use for illegal activities; and many become health hazards over time. Fixing this problem is not a short term issue, especially as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, as there is the potential for a housing crisis, getting ahead of the problem now will pay dividends well into the future. I hope the importance of addressing this issue in Hamilton will receive commitment from you, our Council, in 2021 and well into the future.
This year is also the first time we present the Hamilton Township Fire Division. This Administration has worked tirelessly with Chief Richard Kraemer in setting up the Fire Division for short and long-term success. As the Fire Division operates together as a cohesive unit in 2021 and into the future, we are confident it will provide the continued services our residents have come to expect in a more efficient way. I’m excited to see Chief Kraemer’s work as the first ever Hamilton Fire Chief.
The Capital Budget reflects our commitment to investing in Hamilton’s future. The last year has further proven the need for our municipal government to continue to invest in technology, both as the continued wave of the future, and as a way of providing a more efficient and customer friendly service. The technology upgrades in this budget put our town on a path of maintaining and improving our technology.
As outdoor recreation demands continue to rise, Hamilton will continue our commitment to providing these services to our residents – both at Veteran’s Park and throughout Hamilton’s 60-plus other parks as well. $500,000 is provided for upgrades to our tennis courts and thanks to Council, we also are applying for an additional $500,000 for the conversion of more tennis courts into pickleball courts. Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and our goal for being a destination for pickleball players has resulted in Hamilton being chosen to host a USA Pickleball sanctioned tournament this August that will draw people from all over the region. The investment we make today will be a boon for tourism for years to come. Additionally, Hamilton will be receiving new playground equipment at Limewood Park, through a combined partnership of Joey’s Little Angels and Where Angels Play– a $100,000 value at no cost to our residents!
Hamilton will also prioritize the investment and management of our infrastructure. Thanks to Public Works Director Chris Markley, Hamilton will now have employees dedicated to maintaining our stormwater infrastructure including cleaning out drains and maintaining basins ensuring less flooding concerns here in Hamilton. Hamilton continues to address our responsibility in maintaining Hamilton’s roads with over $5 million in new road projects – much of it from State grant monies.
Finally, while our intention was to wait to introduce our 2021 Budget inclusive of monies from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP), with the complex set of rules just released this week we did not want to delay budget introduction any further. Hamilton’s estimated ARP grant is $17.1 million over two years, monies that will go to securing our finances and help us overcome many additional expenses to address the pandemic. We will present our plan for the ARP monies to Council for your consideration in the weeks to come, but I think it an enormous achievement to present a flat budget without the benefit of the ARP monies.
I thank the Council for the opportunity to present our 2021 budget and look forward to working with you in continuing to overcome all of the challenges presented to us over the last year.