Township to Introduce Budget with Average $63 Tax Hike Tonight
The township committee voted to prepare the municipal budget for introduction with a tax increase and the deferment of school taxes at tonight's meeting
The township committee voted to prepare the municipal budget for introduction at the next caucus meeting tonight, April 26, with a proposed tax increase of $63.24 per year for the average homeowner.
“Unfortunately, we’re in a situation right now where that’s part of what we have to do here,” Committeeman Sean Sharkey said.
A tax increase would amount to $5.27 per month for the average homeowner assessed at $317,924, Chief Financial Officer Adrian Fanning said in a letter to the committee.
The committee is also proposing deferring school taxes by $1.1 million.
Sharkey and Committeewoman Helen DelaCruz went through each department’s operating budgets, questioning line items and the possibility of further cuts.
“It is a really unfortunate situation we’re in now,” DelaCruz said. “People aren’t any better off this year from last year. When it comes to our spending, it was a very difficult thing to do.”
The committee agreed to $22,000 in cuts including a $20,000 decrease in legal services. The rest of the funds were taken from training for an employee in the Planning Board office, overtime for two employees in Solid Waste and Recycling, printing for Public Health Services and a contingency line item.
Approximately $110,000 was originally set aside for legal services, of which Laureigh had planned to use some of those funds for foreclosures, which will now be put off until 2013.
Even with the additional savings, the township could not go without the deferment of school taxes or a tax increase, Mayor Mark Dykoff said.
Sharkey pushed for further cuts in some areas but not all were feasible.
If line items are cut and the departments need more money, they’ll run into a deficiency, Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh explained. The governing body would then have the authorization to transfer money from other departments to make up for it. If money were unavailable to transfer, the township would have to do an emergency appropriation.
“Next year’s going to be just as bad as this year,” Dykoff said. “If we cut it too close to the bone, it just hurts us going forward.”
Although the $22,000 in savings is minute compared to the approximate $500,000 shortfall the township is facing, it’s still a “real plus,” Committeeman Gary Quinn said.
“This budget is really bare bones,” he said. “We’re trying to buy our way through the economic times.”
The committee turned down all new hires and promotions, he said.
Approximately $3.6 million will be utilized in this budget through the township’s balance and deferring school taxes, which is $200,000 less than last year, Fanning said in his letter. The total revenue being utilized is more than $214,000 less than last year.
Since the school district approved a budget with a $99 tax increase to the average homeowner for the year, the deferment of school taxes will go up next year. But the township needs to look towards new ways to generate revenue in the future, Quinn said.
“There are going to be ways that are not going to be popular ideas to approach but we’re going to have to approach them,” he said. “We at a municipal level provide a tremendous amount of services for our residents and get very, very minimal dollars.”
In upcoming years, the township may have to reach out to entities that they provide for to chip in, he said.
“It has to be run as a business,” he said. “Once we get past this budget, we need to move forward with those ideas and prepare for next year.”
Bill Moss of Forked River pointed that the money residents spend for taxes go to the schools, county and township.
“Our schools get the biggest share of everything,” he said. “Everybody comes down on this council for taxes being raised. It is not this council…These people up here spend the least amount of our tax money than anyone else and this town gives us back more than anybody else.”
Tonight, the committee will vote on a resolution to defer school taxes. If that resolution is passed, the committee will then introduce the budget.
The township is aiming to hold a public hearing and adopt the municipal budget by Thursday, May 24.