Starting in 2015, the State of New Jersey required that municipalities incorporate a user-friendly budget (UFB) to summarize the annual operating budget and better explain a municipal budget’s impact on local property taxes. The UFB is in a Microsoft Excel-based format to present a municipal budget in a more easily comprehensive format for the average citizen to provide the public with a clearer picture of how tax dollars are being spent. As an example, Roselle Park 2015 Operating Municipal Budget is 64 pages and the UFB is almost 80% smaller with only 14 pages in total highlighting 12 sections.
The 14 UFB pages/sections are as follow:
- Cover Page
- UFB-1: Property Tax Breakdown
- UFB-2: Anticipated Revenue Summary
- UFB-3: Appropriations Summary & Budgeted Positions
- UFB-4: Structural Imbalances
- UFB-5: Assessed Property Valuations
- UFB-6: Long Term Tax Exemptions/Abatements
- UFB-7: Budgeted Personnel Costs
- UFB-8: Health Benefits
- UFB-9: Accumulated Absence Liability
- UFB-10: Outstanding Debt
- UFB-11: Shared Services
- UFB-12: List Of Authorities & Fire District(s)
- UFB-13: Notes
UFB-1 provides relatively clear-cut information on the total amount from all governing authorities (municipal, school, county, and library) that is to be paid by property taxes to total $38,212,824.00 in 2015. The breakdowns for each are provided with “ESTIMATED” labeling the school and the county which were not confirmed when the UFB was produced. Confirmed figures have the county’s actual amount to be around $120,000 less than the estimate ($5,373,608.42) while the school portion was about $263,000 more than estimated ($20,434,245.00). The actual total for 2015 is $38,508,619.76. The significant information provided in this section shows the year-to-year difference between 2014 and 2015.
UFB-2 shows the anticipated revenue and shows that even though the municipality expects to collect $17,666,169.52 in revenue to offset expenditures, over 69% of that money, $12,201,890.43, will be coming from taxpayers.
UFB-3 gives financial information on the expenditures (appropriations) needed to run the municipality with the top three expenses, in order, being Public Safety, Insurance, and General Government. Readers will notice that almost 55% of the General Government expense comes from the Sewer Utility.
UFB-4 highlights what is termed as Structural Budget Imbalances. In Roselle Park’s case, all three (3) line items are categorized as “Revenues At Risk”. These are anticipated revenues that will not occur in the next budget year or that are known to be declining over time. Basically, these are revenues that should not automatically be expected in the same amount on a regular annual basis. The Safe and Secure Communities Program, the Municipal Alliance on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Grant, and the Recycling Tonnage Grant total $88,378.76 for 2015.
UFB-5 shows not only the assessed values of all 3,694 parcels of property in the borough but separates them into 14 categories. Those categories themselves are sections into taxable and tax-exempt properties. The latter makes up only 2.5% of all properties (92) while commercial and industrial parcels account for 5.5% of all property in Roselle Park (204). Over 89% of all property is residential. The sheet below shows the percentage of assessed value of each category of taxable and tax-exempt properties. In this sheet one can also see that over $150,000 was paid by the municipality (through taxpayers) in tax appeals filed in 2014.
UFB-6 notes that, currently, there are no tax abatement incentives nor tax-abated properties in Roselle Park. It should be noted that although AvalonBay – through its lawsuit settlement against the municipality – was permitted a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) tax abatement program, no construction has started on the Romerovski property.
UFB-7 deals with the budgeted personnel costs associated with running the municipality. This sheet has important information the number of personnel (full-time and part-time) in the various departments throughout the municipality. In addition to the aggregate base pay for each department, overtime, other compensation, estimated pension, health benefits, employment taxes, and other benefits. As expected, the total cost on this sheet accounts for the majority, 62.5%, of the municipal budget.
UFB-8 provides information on the total cost for 2015 health benefits for employees and their families.
UFB-9 gives data on the days of accumulated absences and the dollar value of compensated absences. It should be noted that none of these are maintained through state mandates and are in place through labor agreement, municipal ordinance, and individual employment agreements.
UFB-10 outlines the municipality’s outstanding debt and its impact on the municipal budget. The total for 2015 accounts for 11.6% of the budget.
UFB-11 has the shared services that Roselle Park has with three other government agencies. Westfield’s Board Of Health handles Roselle Park’s Health Department responsibilities for $139,317 for this year alone. Woodbridge Animal Control Services is contracted for $19,700. Union County handles dispatch services for the Fire Department and EMS for $52,040.
UFB-12 lists the two water authorities – Rahway Valley Sewage Authority (RVSA) and Joint Meeting of Essex and Union County (JMEUC). Although Roselle Park has several fire houses, they are not designated as fire district since, among other things, there are no elections for positions.
That last required sheet is for notes to clarify any previous sheet.
The information enclosed provides an important and easy to read overview of how Roselle Park’s municipal government utilizes its funds. This information, in turn, might invite more involvement in the future into how taxpayer dollars are used.
Below is a full copy of the User Friendly Budget for review/download/print: