JACKSON – This year’s proposed municipal budget includes an estimated annual tax increase of $30.45 based on the average township home assessed at $327,707.
The budget was introduced during a March 26 council meeting by Township Business Administrator Terence M. Wall. Wall was among those who prepared the spending plan along with Mayor Michael Reina, Assistant Business Administrator Samantha Novak, Assistant Municipal Treasurer Patricia Schwark and Chief Financial Officer Sharon Pinkava who responded to questions by the council from the audience.
Wall stressed during his presentation that the budget was clear of any “gimmick” efforts such as the township in using surplus funds that would lower the tax rate.
“We are doing intelligent budgeting,” Wall said adding that the planning of the budget was a year-round process.
Wall said the State Department of Community Affairs approves all municipal budgets and reviews financial statements and audits. “Typically, we submit it to them and they pick it apart and ask questions about some of the background and certain revenue projections to make sure it is backed up by contract and the like so that the budget is valid.”
The budget has two principal components which include an operating budget and capital budget and is organized into two expense categories being salary and wages and other expenses. The budget must always balance revenues and expenses.
“We are also a collector for other entities as well. We collect for the county, the Board of Education, our fire districts and the township. Counties, Board of Education and fire districts receive 100 percent of what is anticipated, whether it is collected or not. Municipalities cover any gap with dollars from reserve for uncollected taxes,” Wall explained.
The township’s miscellaneous revenue exceeded the budget totals in 2018 by $1,063,881.74.
There was an increase in fees and permits, interest on investments and deposits and uniform construction code fees.
Unanticipated revenue came to $916,981.95 from a land sale/auction, off duty police work surcharge and from a tower rental.
“You have a nice story here,” Wall told the council as he went over the total municipal expenses budgeted which in 2017 came to $42,398,789.27. Last year that figure saw an increase of $1,774,867.82 with a figure of $44,173,657.09.
In 2017 the amount expended totaled $40,609,196.22 while in 2018 the amount expended was $43,025,414.77, an increase of $2,416,218.55
Moving into this year the miscellaneous anticipated revenue is $6,835,668.48, delinquent taxes is at $1,250,000, the fund balance is $3,703,000 and the amount to be raised for taxation is $33,001,310.41. The total amount for the revenue source of the budget is $44,789,978.87.
Salary and wages were listed as $20,919,245.03, statutory expenses at $5,340,302.31, debt service at $3,743,692.83 and reserve for uncollected taxes being $2,623,313.58 and other expenses coming to $12,163,425.12. The total of the expense appropriation comes to $44,789,978.87.
Comparing this year’s budget to 2018, the municipal tax levy last year was $32,354,549.88 while this year’s is $33,001,310.41 an increase of 2 percent. The average property valuation, set at $326,823 last year rose to $327,707 this year a change of $844. The total assessed valuation of the entire town went from $6,761,719,027 last year to $6,789,618,746 this year a .41 percent increase.
The local school district portion of the entire estimated property tax bill tops the budget at $91,765,775.94 while municipal purpose tax came to $33,001,310.41. The county tax figure came to $31,457,035.53 and the total levies of the township’s three fire districts at $6,578,417.20 while municipal open space came to $1,357,923.73.
“These are the kind of numbers that the taxpayers expect and demand,” Wall said, adding that the township traditionally spends lower than it anticipates “but we want to make sure we are funding conservatively.” Wall said that the township’s tax collection rate is 98.6 percent.
Pinkava assured Councilman Ken Bressi who asked about the tax levy, that “it is at a flat 2 percent.”
Council Rob Nixon asked “are we moving in the right direction?”
Wall responded, “We are definitely moving in the right direction.”
“It is really amazing when you consider what we came from a decade ago,” Nixon said.
The budget’s introduction was unanimously approved. Vice Council President Barry Calogero was absent for the session. A budget hearing will be held in April.