With the smallest number of budget workshops held in years – only two that were a week apart – the governing body brought the increase to be paid by property taxes to just under $100. What started as an increase of $174.85 for a house assessed at $65,000 was reduced to $99.45. Although this reduction of 43% is much less than 2008, it is the second highest increase in half a decade.
This increase will make the estimated municipal tax $2,876.90 for 2015 – again – for a house assessed at $65,000.
This is not the final amount to be paid by homeowners since there are four (4) other components – school levy, county levy, open space funding, and library funding – that will be combined to become the property tax.
By way of a brief overview, the state has a 2% cap on taxes that can be raised by municipalities. This cap comes with certain allowable exceptions such as increases in shared service agreements, health insurance costs, pension obligations, LOSAP (Length of Service Award Program), capital improvements, debt service, capital leases, recycling tax, and PERS charges.
Basing the increases on 2014’s amount to be raised by taxes (excluding mandatory library funding), which was $11,785,811.20, the hard 2% cap amount increase would have been $235,716.22. With the exemptions included, the maximum allowable increase would have been $690,258.55 for a total of $12,476,069.75. The $99.45 increase translates to a $419,963.97 increase for a total of $12,205,775.17. This comes in a quarter of a million dollars under the allowable increase.
On the revenue side, surplus was reduced by 3.45%, bringing it to $1,400,000. The absence of the red light camera system, which was not renewed by the State late last year, saw a 30% loss in revenues, reducing the amount by $135,000 to make the projected ‘Municipal Court Fines And Costs’ line item $419,000.
Cable TV Franchise Fees rose by $5,227.96 for a total of $167,208.38. These are fees paid by Verizon and Comcast to the Borough at a 2% rate of the gross revenues from all subscription fees paid by subscribers in the Borough. These fees, or at least a portion of them, are supposed to go the maintenance and improvements to the local access channels but, as usual, are placed into the general operating budget.
State aid is anticipated to stay the same at $1,084,086.
Wages and salaries saw and increase of 4.03% with the largest percentage increase coming from the Municipal Clerk’s office (6.21%) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) at 12.05%. The municipal clerk’s line item is an adjustment being made for the starting salary of the Casano Community Center Director, Karen Intile, who will be retiring in May, as well as the buyout through contractual obligations that are due to Ms. Intile. The buyout is a one-time expense. The DPW increase was for the hiring of Mark Pasquali as the DPW Superintendent, a position that was paid out of another line item as contractor. The salary for police was increased 3.23% due to step increases for certain personnel. This was the same reason given for the 6.56% increase for dispatchers.
Other expenses had the highest increases for the governing body at 53.85%, the municipal prosecutor for $15,000 (link), Animal Control, Celebration of Public Events, Board Of Health, and PFRS. The police department, Emergency Management, and the Department of Public Works (DPW) had the most significant decrease to reduce their portions by $212,000. The decrease of over $8,000 from the Municipal Clerk’s line item was due to security not being anticipated for this year municipal election as was ordered by the Borough Clerk for last year’s mayoral election.
Mayor & Council increased their line item amount due to additional cell phones, possible attendance at conferences, and an increase in the cost of business cards. The increase for the Board Of Health was due to an increase in STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)/TB (Tuberculosis) services, which according the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ken Blum, have risen dramatically for 2015. PERS, the Public Employees’ Retirement System, saw the employer’s share increase by $13,442 – a 5.52% increase. The Police and Fireman’s Retirement System (PFRS) had a $118,293 or 19.28% increase.
Now former councilman Michael Yakubov was absent for both workshops who 4th Ward Councilman Mohamed ‘Gino’ Elmarassy was at work for the February 18th meeting. The budget was approved unanimously by those councilmembers in attendance.
The municipal budget was supposed to be introduced at the March 5th Mayor & Council meeting but it was postponed due to the weather. The budget is scheduled to be advertised on April 2nd with the public hearing, and probable adoption, set for April 16th.