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Middle Mayor Says 2023 Will be a Challenging Year

Middle Township Mayor Timothy Donohue gives his annual State of the Township address March 1.   
Courtesy Middle Township’s Facebook page

Middle Township Mayor Timothy Donohue gives his annual State of the Township address March 1.   

By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – Each year, Middle Township Mayor Timothy Donohue uses a key phrase or word to describe the coming year during his State of the Township address. In 2022, the key phrase was “full speed ahead.” Donohue gave his 2023 presentation March 1 and declared the coming year “challenging.”
Donohue gave his presentation at a gathering sponsored by the Middle Township Chamber of Commerce. 
“Challenge is the word for this year,” Donohue said. 
He said the township was building back after the pandemic. He reminded the audience that Middle Township is the largest municipality in the county by land area and the second largest in population, yet it must provide quality services with a small fraction of the county’s ratables. 
“You work every day to control costs and provide efficient services,” Donohue said.
The mayor began by saying that Middle has the 30th lowest property taxes in the state. For the owner of a median-valued property at $365,000, the local purpose tax is $1,848, amounting to about $5 a day for all municipal services.
Donohue said that continuous development in the township had raised the ratable base by almost $38 million where it stands now at $2.84 billion. 
Continuing to discuss the fiscal state of the township, Donohue noted that the general fund surplus is “lean.” He said the $1.7 million surplus is low by design. 
“That’s your money,” he said. 
He said the township should not be accumulating a surplus from taxpayer funds it did not need to collect.
The comparison Donohue was making was to many municipalities in the county that have surplus levels at or near $10 million. What he did not mention was that while the township never had a large surplus balance, up until 2020 the surplus was consistently higher than it is today. The year 2020 was costly to the township’s reserves.
The presentation made the point that only about 25% of the Middle Township total property tax bill constitutes the township’s levy for municipal services. Over 50% of the tax bill is comprised of the school district levy, another 15% represents the county tax, and the remaining 6.5% goes to the fire district.
He noted the fiscal challenges this year include ensuring competitive salaries, the rising cost of pensions and health care, and the impact of high inflation.
The township continues to focus on cost containment, Donohue said, citing examples like the privatization of emergency medical services (EMS), the move to county dispatch, and a reduction in professional service costs.
Along with controlling costs, the township seeks to diversify revenue streams, including through a potential tax on cannabis businesses, annual land sales, and expansion of host community benefits.
Donohue called attention to the businesses that have opened in the township in 2022, the entertainment complex at County Commons, which is under construction, and projects underway like the imminent arrival of the Burlington store in Rio Grande and the residential townhouse development project adjacent to the Stone Harbor Golf Club. 
His point was that many business owners are investing in Middle and new projects are in an almost steady movement through the pipeline.
The new businesses attracted to Middle are part of the township’s responsible development program, Donohue said. 
He cited expanded economic development zones in Rio Grande and an initiative to improve the downtown area of Court House.
Housing is a priority in the township. Donohue pointed to new subdivision plans at Seaview Crossing and Patsy’s Way, noting that the new housing developments will incorporate the terms of the affordable housing settlement.
Quality of life upgrades are always part of township plans, Donohue said. 
Additional recreational opportunities, road and sewer upgrades, the new extension of the bike path, the establishment of the new Rio Grande Community Partnership and the Del Haven Water Project are all evidence of efforts to benefit the township’s 20,000-plus residents.
Donohue spoke of the ongoing problems of mental health support and homelessness. He called on the state to provide more resources for dealing with the increase in mental health issues. 
Donohue said the township is looking into new programs for helping the homeless, noting that the homeless problem requires the township to strike a balance that also considers the concerns of neighborhoods and businesses.
The entire slide package from the address is available on the township website. 
Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

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