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Mayor Cahn introduced his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to the members of Township Council on Monday, Aug. 8. Below is a transcript of his remarks to Council.
Good evening, everyone. Tonight, I am pleased to present to Council my proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.
I’m extremely proud to announce that, for the fifth year in a row, there will be no increase in your municipal taxes.
When I took office nearly five years ago, I promised to run the local government efficiently and effectively; to promote economic development and investment; and to adopt a universal approach to Township operations that emphasized fiscal responsibility and strong municipal services.
At the same time, I felt strongly that maintaining a strong, vibrant and truly sustainable Cherry Hill community would require an important balancing act: promoting and encouraging economic revitalization and redevelopment that would enable continued investments in public safety, roads and infrastructure, open space, and improvements to parks, playgrounds and trails throughout the Township.
Cherry Hill has gained its reputation as a wonderful place to live and raise a family in large part because of our beautiful, close-knit neighborhoods, great schools, strong property values, recreational and cultural opportunities, and our beautiful open spaces and historic sites.
So maintaining the character and identity of our Township and unique neighborhoods must remain a priority.
Today, we see that balance in action.
We see the result of five years of prudent financial planning, smart budgeting, emphasizing operational efficiency, and focusing on township-wide revitalization efforts.
The $69 million budget we have proposed for fiscal year 2017 continues to invest in roads, public safety, historic properties, public works, recreation, property maintenance, and open space.
At the same time, it is a forward-looking, forward-thinking budget that prepares us not just for 2017, but for 2018 and beyond.
This budget holds the line on taxes for yet another year, while providing for increased investments in our community’s well-being through high-quality municipal services and funding for programs that help maintain the character of our neighborhoods and ensure that Cherry Hill remains a great place for all of our residents to live, work and play.
Over the years, one of the main concerns I continue to hear from residents is the condition of our roads.
This year, we have scheduled 56 local roads for repair – nearly four times as many as in previous years – and we will continue to look for ways to work more efficiently and effectively to make a significant impact on our roads most in need of repair.
This has been a wonderful and proud year for the CHPD, under the tremendous leadership of Chief Monaghan.• One that included a successful and highly competitive police recruitment effort.• One that saw the growth of community outreach and reinvigorated community policing efforts, and just recently included a wonderful National Night Out celebration that brought together residents and officers alike. • And tonight we have a resolution on the agenda to approve the grant-funded purchase of body cameras for every police officer, as an important step forward and protection for both our officers, and the men, women and children they are sworn to serve.
This year’s budget also includes significant recreation enhancements. • We recently unveiled five brand new tennis courts at Cherry Hill West;• Partnered with the Board of Education to build two, new multi-sport turf fields and new tracks at both high schools;• Installed new Pickleball courts in Erlton North; • And we have budgeted for continued upgrades to sport courts across town, improvements to several playgrounds, various trail improvements, and continued restoration efforts at our historic Croft Farm and Barclay Farmstead.
This year, the Township realized a savings on our employee health benefits, at a time when many companies and municipalities report rising costs; and we continue to control municipal debt – with 52 percent of our current debt on track to be paid off in the next four years.
On top of all of this, our tax ratables - the total assessed value of our town - continue to increase.
These improvements are possible, not just because of our own prudent planning, but because of our commitment to promoting economic revitalization, efforts that have strengthened our local commercial landscape and provided the foundation for our success for the future.
Large-scale projects such as Penn Medicine’s reinvention of the old Syms department store and Kennedy Health’s $100 million reinvestment in its Cherry Hill campus provide a significant investment in Cherry Hill.
They create jobs and revenue, and most importantly, they inspire continued investment from businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors.
The resulting economic impact – both the increase in ratables and the revenue generated by construction and revitalization efforts – allows us as a Township to continue investing in our community, and to provide more services to our residents, without adding to the tax burden on our hard-working families and seniors.
Our commercial landscape is changing, but the character of our Township is not.
Cherry Hill is built on families and neighborhoods that are diverse, vibrant and engaged.
That has not, and will not, change.
New families are moving into our town at the highest rate in years, and many seniors are choosing to stay here well into retirement, as well.
As Mayor, I believe it is my responsibility – together with Council – to act in the best interests of our town in everything that we do, and to move our community forward, in every respect. I believe we are accomplishing this, every single day. There are great things in store for Cherry Hill in 2016, 2017 and beyond, and I look forward to sharing more information with all of you in the months to come.
I want to thank our residents for remaining engaged and passionate; indeed, I share your passion for making sure we create the best possible future for our community.
That is my highest priority in every action we take and decision we make.
I want to thank the members of Township Council for their support and collaboration in working to make Cherry Hill an even better, stronger and more sustainable community for our residents.
I look forward to finalizing this budget in the weeks to come – and to our final adoption on Wednesday, September 14.