This week, the Borough introduced the 2018 budget. In a nutshell, we will continue services we have all come to enjoy –weekly leaf collection, an affordable community pool (newly refurbished!), recreation programs for all ages and all the other slices of Borough life that make this town where you want to be.

Here are some highlights. This year’s budget includes $1 million dedicated exclusively to street improvements. We expect to complete ten streets and are examining need for reconstruction and replacement of water and sewer lines. We will increase our annual spending on streets by 400% over last year. This, coupled with State grant projects that should begin construction this year, means there will be some $1.6 million spent improving our street infrastructure in 2018. This budget includes new police cars, an additional Public Works employee and two new trucks and handles the ever-increasing costs of our various insurances.

We are rolling out a small business grant program that will help our businesses grow. Our Business Improvement District (BID) has, in addition to our full calendar of events, successfully run a business seminar program to help our merchants adapt to the new economy, network, collaborate and use social media tools and modern marketing to help them thrive and keep our business community strong.

For all these improvements, this budget comes with an annual tax increase of just $33 for the entire year on the average assessed home of $229,575. We never like to raise taxes, but we are confident this budget maximizes every dollar and provides for substantial infrastructure improvements and maintains Collingswood’s outstanding services for a marginal increase.

Related to finances, let me update you on the progress of new police and fire facilities. We have had two public meetings – one with the immediate neighborhood around the location being studied and one as the central topic of our Town Forum. Our goal is to be as open and public about this process as possible.

Through a selection process that vetted candidates with strong experience in public safety buildings we have just hired an architect with a strong administrative record in securing public safety grants and assistance. As you may know, we have been particularly successful in securing Federal grants for our Fire Department and we are working on securing outside funding for these buildings. The architect is studying the site to determine feasibility, researching alternate financing and will host information sessions with the public in 2018 regarding any next steps. Our aim is to find funding sources to assure this is not financed exclusively by taxpayers and to continue to get your feedback.

We are also working through some final environmental studies at the former M&E Marine site on Route 130 to relocate our Public Works facility. I hope to have some concrete details on that soon.

The big question is - how do we pay for all of this? While we hunt grants for public safety (actually have another meeting on that this week), there is no such money available for other public building projects. However, we are working to structure any debt so that it would come due when older debt is retired. Kind of like having the new car loan begin when the old car loan ends in an effort to responsibly balance costs, rather than add new debt. We are at the beginning of this process and we will keep you all advised and have a bunch more meetings to talk it out.

Let’s go, spring!