BERKELEY – Berkeley Township officials discussed the 2019 municipal budget at a nearly empty room at the April 22 Township Council meeting.
Only about a dozen people attended the monthly meeting, which was held one day after the Easter holiday. They missed the good news that there will be no increase in the municipal purposes tax rate this year, which will remain at .6460 for each $100 of assessed valuation.
“This is the third time in the last five years the municipal rate will stay the same,” Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said.
By law, the township collects all property taxes and then doles it out to the other taxing entities, such as the county and the two school districts. In this case, the municipal portion of the tax bill has not gone up. The county and schools portion might differ.
Amato gave a brief presentation of the $47,028,544 budget at the caucus meeting. Township Council members unanimously adopted the budget after a closed session following the caucus meeting, the mayor said.
The 2019 municipal budget is up by $312,056 from last year, a 0.67 percent increase. The amount to be raised by taxation also include a $2,281,577 reserve, which will not only cover Berkeley, but the Berkeley Township school district and the Central Regional school district, Amato has said.
Taxes collected for the school districts amount to 71 percent, compared to 29 percent for the municipal portion, the mayor said.
There’s more good news. Berkeley’s ratable base has finally recovered, almost seven years after Superstorm Sandy hammered the waterfront sections of the township, the mayor said.
Berkeley’s ratable base is now $5,175,652. The ratable base was $5,089,815,160 in 2014, he said.
The ratable base is the total amount of property value in the entire township. Berkeley lost millions of dollars worth of property when homes were destroyed.
Berkeley’s credit rating has also improved, from A- a few years ago, to AA-, which means the township’s credit limit now stands at $192,000, even though the township only owes $52 million, less than a third, the mayor said.
“We’ve made some great strides,” he said. “We are very proud of our budget.”
In other business, Amato and several council members slammed New Jersey Natural Gas for its latest request for a nearly 19 percent increase in residential and business base rate bills.
“It’s time for the executives of New Jersey Natural Gas to sharpen their pencils a little and do something about the outrageous increase,” the mayor said. “Nineteen percent is outrageous and totally unacceptable.”
The company’s rate increase request is the third in three years. The company requested a rate increase of 24 percent back then, Amato said.
The proposed increase would translate into a monthly hike of $19.38, or $232.56 per year, he said.