JACKSON – Without comment from the dais or the public, the Jackson Township Council unanimously passed the proposed $42.4 million budget for 2017.
The average homeowner, whose home is worth $326,489, will see a monthly increase of $2.88 in their municipal tax bill, a total of $34.61 for the year.
The amount to be raised by taxation will be $31,800,458.30, up from last year’s $30,927,427.63.
“If you look over the last several years, our budget is the very definition of fiscal restraint and responsibility. Over the last several years we’ve reduced our debt and maintained very minimal spending increases. Our debt is down in the low $20 million range. When I first came in office it was $36 million,” Councilman Scott Martin said after the April 25 meeting closed. “The mayor and administration have done a great job in maintaining fiscal discipline and I applaud their efforts and hope this will continue.”
Martin continued that services remain intact or have increased with the expansion of the police department.
“We’re not only being fiscally responsible, we’re also protecting the residents at the same time,” Martin said.
Council president Kenneth Bressi said he is pleased with the budget.
“This goes along with what’s been going on for quite a few years now, where we stayed under the 2 percent with everything, not cut services, and still move forward, and yet still working with less income than we’ve had all these years,” Bressi said. The 2 percent is in reference to state-mandated caps that prevent towns from increasing some spending more than 2 percent. “It shows, between the administration and mayor and council working together, that we keep everything tight. We’re moving along with different projects and not cutting services and maintaining a mostly level tax on the township side.”
The township saw mandated costs again increase: salaries and wages increased $689,069.58; health insurance, $115,271; and retirement payments, $112,789.41.
There were decreases from last year’s expenses as well. Snow removal costs dropped $188,000; judgments, $105,000; bond principal, $27,000; and landfill/solid waste costs, $40,000.
Anticipated revenue dipped 2.46 percent, from $10.9 million to $10.6 million.
As with other towns and school districts, Jackson’s mandated costs continue to increase. Services haven’t been cut, and the township has worked to stay under its allowed 2 percent cap. But how long can that be maintained before the township finds itself on what school superintendent Stephen Genco called “the fiscal cliff.”
“It’s something we worry about all the time. To say what’s going to happen five years from now is impossible. But it’s something we’re looking at,” Bressi said. “I’m hoping, with the land use and development going on, that that won’t happen to us. If we can get a movement with [Jackson] Twenty-One out there, and get some of these other properties, that will help us sustain what we’re doing and maybe move forward.”