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.