LAKEHURST – The Lakehurst Borough Council recently adopted its $4.2 million budget.
The average Lakehurst residents, whose home is valued at $159,186, will see their 2019 borough tax bill increase $32, officials said. Home values dipped slightly from last year’s $159,544 average.
Taxpayers directly shoulder more than half the budget, as opposed to revenues from state aid and fees. The tax levy increased $42,785, from $2,502,065 in 2018 to $2,544,850 this year.
“We had some major problems this year,” chief financial officer William Antonides Jr. said. Bail reform slammed local court revenues, which saw a shortfall of $32,723. “It’s really been hurting small towns.”
The borough also saw an increase of more than $39,000 in statutory pension costs, Antonides said.
“I think it’s important to remember the budget is not locked in with dollar amounts. It’s a spending plan,” Council President Steven Oglesby said. “And where you can, within the cap limits, you want to [anticipate the revenues], because anything can change that. If you have five major taxpayers in town appeal their taxes and win, guess what? You’re anticipated revenues just went down. So you never know for sure.”
Cap limits are set by state ordinance that say towns can’t increase spending for most items past 2 percent.
One resident pointed out that Lakehurst has the highest general tax rate – the “multiplier for use in determining the amount of tax levied upon each property, expressed as $1 per $100 of taxable assessed value,” according to the state’s Division of Taxation – at $3.114 in 2018. (Barnegat came in second last year at $2.729, according to county tax records.)
“With Lakehurst being the highest-taxed town in the entire county – and I don’t really see much for it, in my opinion – does anybody ever sit around and think about, ‘Well, what can we do to try to not raise taxes so we can let other towns catch up?’” Tim Sinkewitz asked. “In some situations, we’re a full 1 percent more than other towns.”
He would like to see the borough cut spending somewhere, whether through layoffs or not purchasing new vehicles or equipment every year.
Mayor Harry Robbins said any cuts would kill each respective department.
“Okay, well, you got to do some layoffs. Figure out, maybe privatize some things that are currently being done in house,” Sinkewitz said.
“You really think we don’t think about that every year?” Oglesby asked.
Councilwoman Patricia Hodges pointed out that large purchases to replace equipment aren’t made spur of the moment. Each department has long-range schedules to replace aged-out equipment and vehicles.
“One of the main problems with us is, we have no industry here,” Robbins said. “These other towns have industry, so they have these tax-break businesses.”
While there were no new services added in the 2019 budget, Antonides said no services from 2018 were cut.