Jackson Officials Adopt Budget

Council President Kenneth Bressi, center, talks about the adoption of this year’s operating budget during a public hearing at Jackson Township Hall. Council Vice President Rob Nixon sits at left while Councilman Barry Calogero is at right. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

JACKSON – Township officials unanimously adopted its municipal budget that includes a 1.74 percent tax increase.

As was the case an hour earlier during the school district’s budget hearing, held a short distance away at Jackson Memorial High School, no one from the public spoke about the budget during the public hearing.

The increase in the municipal spending plan translates to a $20.86 per year increase in taxes for the average home owner assessed at $326,823.

The total budget is $44,173,657.09.

The municipal tax levy increased by 1.74 percent, from last year’s $31,800,458.30, to this year’s $32,354,549.88.

The municipal tax rate will be going from 47.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2017 to 47.9 cents per $100 this year, an increase of 1.3 percent.

In March, residents present for the budget’s introduction followed along with a printout of a PowerPoint presentation by Business Administrator Helene Schlegel during that council meeting.

Schlegel stated at the time that public safety (police and emergency services) represented the highest portion of expenses in this year’s budget. She also said that “the tax burden is falling on residential home owners. We are seeking clean ratables to take away some of that burden. The mayor has been working on that. We have made some progress on that since last year.”

Salaries for the mayor and council will not see an increase in the spending plan. Council President Kenneth J. Bressi said that those salaries have remained the same since 2008.

In March, Bressi said that several non-residential properties would soon be breaking ground and that “our commercial properties are up by 23 percent this year. Things are improving.”

Council vice president Robert Nixon said previously that despite the increase, the spending plan supports “an amazing expanded police department, senior services, clean streets and a lean and mean staff. We are an extremely well-run municipality.”

The municipal budget has two principal components which include an operating budget and a capital budget. The spending plan is organized into two expense categories – salary and wages, and operating expenses. The spending side must always balance revenues.

The township collects taxes for the county, school district and township itself. It then doles out the school and county’s shares. Counties and schools receive 100 percent of what is anticipated, whether collected or not, while municipalities cover any gap with dollars from the “reserve for uncollected taxes.” In other words, all towns in New Jersey have to tax a little more to make up for anyone who did not pay their taxes so that the school and county get their fair share.

Jackson Mayor Michael Reina. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Jackson Township’s budgetary process involves the mayor and administrator submitting the budget and the council, approving it by a majority vote. It is then submitted to the state for examination and final approval.

Schlegel stated that the allowable operating appropriations (expenses) of the current fund portion of the municipal budget cannot increase greater than 2.5 percent from the previous year. Year to year budget appropriation increases that are under the cap can be “banked” and saved for use in the subsequent two years.

Comparing the 2018 budget to 2017’s spending plan miscellaneous revenue exceeded the budget totals by $266,726.91 last year which included an increase in fees and permits, municipal court fines, interest on investments and deposits.

Unanticipated revenue was $1,679,640.77 and included a reimbursement from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), ABC (Alcohol Beverage Commission) and tower rental fees.

Schlegel previously explained that the spending plan avoided any “gimmicks” and avoided onetime revenues, pension deferrals, school tax deferrals, cap waivers, fiscal year debt and extraordinary aid.

The business administrator described it as “a totally clean budget with no exclusions. It is 100 percent pure.”

Councilman Scott Martin said after the meeting that he feels the township has seen improvement concerning budget decisions and planning. “Since 2006 when we had our change of government, we have slowed the rate of spending.” Martin added that the budget has been reduced by several million dollars in the last 12 years.

“The township strives for fiscal responsibility. I feel this is very evident this year and we’ve been able to work more for less. We have no cuts to services in this budget,” Mayor Michael Reina said.