BRICK – Mayor John G. Ducey introduced the 2018 municipal budget during a recent council meeting that shows an increase of less than one-half of a percent over last year’s budget.
The $100,978,885 projected spending/revenue plan is up $471,742 for increases that are “largely beyond our control,” including insurance costs of more than $1 million, police salary and wage up nearly $900,000, and increased pension contributions of $477,000.
The spending plan calls for an increase of $2,177,880 in the tax levy, which equals 1.9 cents on the tax rate, and equates to $47.50 for the median home in Brick, valued at $250,000.
There would be no cuts in the services, programs or the protection that Brick residents have become accustomed to, he said.
This would be the first budget since 2010 that the township is not receiving a $1 million donation from the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority (BTMUA), an amount that Ducey called a “significant revenue loss.”
A township ordinance says that when a municipal utility service has available surplus revenue, an amount, not to exceed 5 percent of the annual costs of operation, may be transferred and included in the local budget. The BTMUA is requesting a rate increase this year that would raise $2.5 million for shortfalls. After the meeting, Business Administrator Joanne Bergin said the township did not request the $1 million this year, recognizing that the BTMUA is implementing several capital projects.
“I would love to stand here before you every year and say there is no spending increase, but the realities of running a municipal government and a community this size, and providing for the safety and quality of life for our residents makes that very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve,” Ducey said.
The mayor said that since the start of his tenure as mayor in 2014, the budget has grown a total of 2.56 percent.
The proposed budget includes a surplus balance of nearly $11 million, which the mayor said was one of his administration’s fiscal initiatives.
“The surplus is essentially the township’s savings account,” Ducey said. “Just like a healthy savings account is good for your household, it is good for the township. It’s a sign of fiscal responsibility and has strengthened our financial standing.”
After the meeting, Bergin said that the budget utilizes $10,927,270 in surplus to balance the budget, the equivalent of 10.59 cents, to offset the tax rate increase, leaving the same amount in surplus for cash flow purposes, which represents 10.82 percent of the proposed 2018 operating budget.
“This is a credit positive in our Aa2 Moody’s and S&P’s AA rating reflects the highest surplus balance in over 25 years,” Bergin wrote in an email.
Eight years ago the surplus was down to $48,724, Ducey said.
A second fiscal initiative for his administration was reducing the township’s debt, which was $168,335,337, Ducey said. At the beginning of 2018, the debt had been reduced to approximately $149.7 million, down $18.5 million.
Ducey said his administration would further reduce the debt this year by $2.5 million.
“We will continue to work on reducing this debt and continue to be fiscally conservative,” he said. “This budget is the product of the council, the administration, and the municipal staff working towards a common goal of saving the taxpayers money,” Ducey said.
The budget would be formally introduced later on this spring, he added.