Lacey Township will receive flat state aid under Gov. Chris Christie's proposed budget, with proposed total formula aid maintained at $11,273,840.
“For the most part it was positive news. The school’s numbers certainly came out a lot better as well which is another win-win for the town,” Mayor Gary Quinn said. “Any additional money whether it is to the schools or town out of Trenton, in any town, is certainly a plus versus what we have seen the last couple of years.”
The $11.2 million is only a fraction of Christie’s proposed total state budget of $29.4 billion, which reduced spending 2.6 percent from last year. Christie’s plan also calls for pension, benefits, and education reform.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re moving in the right direction. I think we all realize that times are tough right now and as long as we can maintain right now, especially in an economy like this, I think we’re doing all right,” Congressman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) said. “There are a lot of hard decisions, a lot of sacrifice that we’re having to make but I think the governor has got the right idea. He is doing what he believes is best for the state and as long as he keeps the plan and stays on course, I think in the end we’ll be good.”
Christie calls his plan for the state a “new normal- that cuts and spends responsibly.”
“And also in the context of property taxes, this year’s budget continues to provide municipalities with steady aid. That's right, mayors – at the exact same level as last year. So there is no excuse for this relief to be eaten up with higher local taxes, between receiving no further cut in municipal aid, and implementing a 2 percent cap on property taxes," Christie said.
Based on the $3.2 million shortfall Lacey Township is currently facing, Quinn believes taxes will be raised by 2 percent this year, which is the maximum that municipalities can increase taxes under the state-mandated cap.
“Some place along the line we have to make up the difference,” Quinn said.
Although municipalities can ask voters' permission to exceed the cap, via referendum, the mayor said he would not be in favor of doing so.
The township will be receiving $11,107,558 from the energy tax and $166,282 for the Garden State Trust, which decreased by $82,000 since last year. The decrease was not anticipated because the governor’s office had originally said otherwise, Quinn said.
With the announcement of the closing of Oyster Creek Generating Station in 2019, the Township Committee was concerned that the state would continue to decrease their energy tax, which accounts for approximately 42.6 percent of their budget, according to township Administrator Veronica Laureigh. Last year, the state cut $450,000 from Lacey’s energy tax.
The Township Committee will begin to set meetings to discuss the budget at the committee and caucus meeting tonight, Quinn said.
Under state law, municipalities must introduce the budget by March 13, which Quinn said would be difficult because there are many informational seminars required by Lacey Township that will be taking place throughout the next two weeks.
Some of these seminars include training on the tax cap and finances.
“They are very important seminars for the CFO to attend so when we sit down and start putting the budget together, all these things can be incorporated to try to reach the number we have to stay under,” Quinn said.
Quinn also said that there are some areas that remain unclear including health insurance and pension increases as far as what is inside and outside the 2 percent property tax cap.
“We really need that information to be able to form that budget itself,” Quinn said.
In the meantime, the committee will meet with the various Township departments and emergency services to start compiling funding priorities, Quinn said.