Westampton Proposes Budget Increase Amid Public Safety and Service Upgrades

In a recent Westampton Town Council meeting, discussions centered around the proposed 2024 municipal budget, property tax levy increases, and significant investments in public safety and municipal services. The proposed $14.4 million budget for 2024, marking an increase of approximately $458,000 over the previous year, sparked debates among meeting participants, with particular focus on the impact of tax increases and the allocation of funds for departmental needs.

The spotlight of the meeting shone on the proposed increase in the property tax levy. To cover operating expenditures against a backdrop of low surplus and revenue, the council proposed an increase of 6.2 cents, exceeding the 2% cap and resulting in an average residential taxpayer seeing an increase of $156 a year. This 6.5% increase was justified by the need to build surplus for the future, with a proposed deferral of school taxes by $435,000, representing 75% of the allowable deferral rate. The property tax share breakdown revealed that the school share remained the largest at 56.4%, with the municipal share at 28.3% and the county share at 15.3%.

Budgetary discussions were not limited to tax increases. The meeting delved into various areas of increase in the 2024 budget, including healthcare, personnel contracts, and inflation. Notably, the 1977 New Jersey law that limits municipal expenditure growth to 3.5% over the previous year’s expenditures was a topic of consideration.

In public safety, the Police Department’s budget was a focal point, with requests for two new patrol vehicles and an upgrade to the alcohol testing machine. The Police Chief presented a case for increased funding to cover costs for maintaining the current fleet, body cameras, tasers, and other equipment. Additionally, the chief underscored goals for community engagement, proposing to increase the patrol division by two officers per year and expressing the need to address security at local schools, including the minimal security at Benjamin Bager School and the potential use of retired officers as School Resource Officers (SROs).

The Fire Department also presented its budgetary needs, with a request for $67,000 to replace equipment and discussions on technology upgrades totaling $50,000. The fire chief outlined the necessity for funding to support day-to-day operations, maintenance, training, and vehicle replacement, and acknowledged the challenges of finding qualified candidates for firefighter positions. The council celebrated the department’s achievements in securing a grant and conducting a feasibility study for the firehouse in 2023, while also acknowledging the personnel shortages and increased service demands faced.

The meeting further addressed shared service agreements and the renewal of the trash collection contract, considering a transition to automatic trash collection and the need to purchase Twitter bins for residents. Inquiries were made regarding funding and insurance for equipment, including a leaf vacuum and the impact of departmental expenses on the overall budget.

Additionally, the council entertained proposals for facilities and service upgrades, such as expanding the recreation center, implementing automated trash collection, and purchasing a new truck for the Department of Public Works.

Safety concerns were also addressed with a presentation from Harenberg Insurance on accident investigation. The presenter underscored the importance of comprehending the steps of an investigation, identifying contributing factors, and implementing corrective actions to prevent future accidents. Emphasis was placed on the significance of training, equipment, and proper procedures in accident prevention.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Sandy Henley
City Council Officials:
Odise Carr, Jaime Mungo, Nancy Burkley, Genel Wright

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