16 October 2008

Finances Shaping Up

According to one of our area's oldest road signs, the southern border of our town is just 3.9 miles from the "New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute". But when it comes to sound fiscal policy, Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships are a world apart.

An article in today's newspaper describes the problems Montgomery is having with development plans for the former "Institute" - which began as the New Jersey Village for Epileptics in 1898, became the NJ Neurpsychiatric Institiute in 1952, and changed its name to the North Princeton Developmental Center in 1975.

The Center closed in 1998, and Montgomery purchased the site from the state in 2005 for $5.65 million - and then spent another $22 million to clean the site with the hopes of developing 42 of the 257 acres as Skillman Village.

The crippled economy has wreaked havoc with those plans. None of the developers contacted by Montgomery Township have committed to the project, and taxpayers are left holding the bag.

How big of a bag is it? The debt service on the loan Montgomery took to buy the property is $880,000 per year. That amounts to 3.25% of their annual budget! Yes, three and a quarter percent of Montgomery Township's municipal budget is used to pay the debt service on this ONE project.

Hillsborough's Chief Finance Officer recently released his annual report on the state of Hillsborough's finances. The eight page report is full of interesting information, not the least of which is the fact that while other municipalities - like Montgomery - have been borrowing, Hillsborough has been paying down it's debt - saving taxpayers thousands of dollars each year and putting the town in great financial shape!

We're in such good shape that if our financial report had legs it could make that 3.9 mile run down to Skillman Village in about 20 minutes!

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