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No Tax Increase in Proposed Municipal Budget

Mayor Dan Hayes presented his draft of the budget with a 0 percent tax increase.

Mayor Dan Hayes presented his spending plan for the 2013 municipal budget Thursday, emphasizing that, without cutting any programs, the budget has a 0 percent tax increase.

"This budget provides the resources to continue to meet our goals without the need of a tax increase," he said.

The budget as outlined now is set at $38,688,671, a 0.6 percent increase over the 2012 budget, which was set at $38,451,229.13.

And with a 0 percent tax increase, residents will pay a municipal tax of $1,053 for a home assessed at the average value of $411,662. This is exactly the same as the tax costs in the 2012 budget.

Hayes said Thursday that the administration focused on maintaining his four goals of remaining among the lowest in the county for municipal taxes, keeping vigilant in land use, delivering essential services and providing for infrastructure changes.

"This budget does this in a resident-first cost-effective manner," he said.

The budget, Hayes said, provides additional funding for litigation and zoning for this year. There will be an increase of $195,000 in costs for litigation this year while the township continues defending itself in several lawsuits, and debt service will increase in 2013 by $370,889 for payments on former capital budget decisions.

Hayes said the township is also reaping the benefits from internalizing the code enforcement program. The township has stopped using outside contractors for this work.

"In Sandy, we were able to provide quick responses to residents, and we are able to be more responsive in general," he said.

Hayes said the township is also looking at increased revenue of $200,000 for 2013 through internalizing that service.

With the budget as it stands now, it includes $147,200 budgeted for costs associated with cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. The township is planning to apply to FEMA for reimbursement of 75 perccent of the costs associated, and the governor has mandated that municipalities can finance these storm-related costs over a five-year period, which the township is planning to do.

In terms of pensions and health benefits, recent changes to the laws are requiring pension contributions from the township to increase by $95,680, and health benefit contributions from employees will be set at $300,000, offsetting any increases in premiums this year.

The township is also looking at saving $65,000 in unemployment insurance on employees who have left the payroll.

In addition, all township departments are being asked to cut operating costs by 5 percent wherever possible. They have already reduced the number of phone lines to cut that budget by $30,000, and have negotiated an agreement for the county to provide $57,300 in offsetting costs for social services.

Hayes said the budget also assumes that state aid will remain flat. Last year, the township received $5,904,261 in state aid.

"Any further reductions in revenue will be felt directly in the form of tax increase pressures," he said.

But, Hayes said, the important thing is to remain affordable for residents.

"The need to keep taxes as low as possible is fully understood by the staff," he said. "We understand we need to keep municipal tax rates as low as possible. We remain charged to look at creative ways to lower costs and provide services at reduced costs."

The next step is for the township council to review the budget before it is introduced to the public.

BucaBuddy99 February 01, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Hooray! Finally an understanding of our current financial state. Good work Mayor Hayes.
Mike Umbris February 01, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Well done. This is why you were elected. Can you please send a memo to D.C . regarding this as well.
Mike February 02, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Not bad, but taxes should be going down significantly. Less/smaller government, please. Some ideas: Citizens who have potholes in front of their houses should pay for repairs, not the township. And haul your own Sandy trees away; why should I pay for that? I can't wait for education to be privatized: no way should the mall be paying $2M/yr into the education budget (look it up); imagine how many more customers they'd have if kids weren't in school...and how many of those kids they could hire at minimum wage with the $2M saved. </snark>
Robin B February 03, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Not a bad start. But the value of my home is down 30% or so while my taxes have steadily increased to their present high levels. If I had eight kids in school, to pick an arbitrary number, the 2/3 of my taxes that goes to support education would be a bargain. However my one child is long out of the Bridgewater school system yet I will be paying for education in perpetuity. Some thing here is out of whack. I don't mind contributing to the general welfare, but this is at ridiculous levels.
Mike February 03, 2013 at 04:57 PM
@Robin: Absolutely! Paying into something you will not benefit from makes no sense, especially since you've already reaped the benefits. And if B-R's public schools were even half as great as they're purported to be, your home value would not have diminished so much, for sure, so there goes that argument. School tax should be based on how many kids you have in the system. This is a clear message to our liberal mayor and town council: where's the austerity?

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