LAKEHURST – Residents came out to question this year’s municipal spending plan which was unanimously approved during a recent council meeting.
Normally, the Borough Council has a public audience of one person but the subject of this year’s budget drew nine more people who inquired about various aspects of it. They received answers primarily from Lakehurst’s Chief Financial Officer Wayne Sibilia.
The $4,437,920.28 budget features a 2 percent municipal tax increase, Sibilia explained. Local taxes for municipal purposes for 2022 have been budgeted at $2,672,837.51. This is an increase of $51,301.88.
He further explained that the average home in Lakehurst is assessed at $161,133.19 and the proposed municipal local tax levy on an average home valuation is $2,979.35. A homeowner with a home valued at that average would see an approximately $50 increase in their municipal taxes.
Resident David Burton asked what the purpose is of establishing a cap bank. Sibilia said that “whatever funds we don’t utilize, we reserve for up to three years for future years to provide for additional revenue.”
“Every year, developing a budget is a challenge. This year was especially challenging. The borough often has to contend with costs that are outside of our control,” Sibilia said. He noted that department heads within the municipality were requested to “try hard to spend for only what they needed. Yes, taxes are going up.”
During the meeting it was also noted that the borough has been ordered by Ocean County to conduct a reassessment of all borough properties. Sibilia said the cost of that reassessment was something that the governing body had to contend with as it would have pay for it. He said any tax impact for that would be reflected next year.
A reassessment is when all the property in the borough is looked at and assigned new values. The assessment is what the property is worth, not what you paid for it. Towns are ordered to do this by the state when properties are an average of 15% off market values.
The difference between a reassessment and a revaluation is that reassessments are done in-house, and revaluations are done by an outside company. Smaller towns are able to do reassessments themselves and save money.
It was also stated that a reassessment did not automatically mean a homeowner’s taxes would increase. A letter recently went out to residents concerning the reassessment process and when a public forum would be held that would explain that process.
“We have to go forward with this,” Mayor Harry Robbins said.
Street Lights And Gas Bills
Council President Steven Oglesby brought up that a street light on Church Street was not working and “The street light has been out for several weeks.” He asked what the protocol was in alerting residents about the light being out of commission. “I don’t know if there are others out as well.”
He also brought up that Jersey Central Power & Light had a program for the replacement of borough street lights with LED lighting. “Is that program still going on? They are so much more energy efficient”
Mayor Robbins said he’d reach out to JCP&L about the situation.
The council president also said that a check on the borough natural gas bill pertaining to certain borough buildings was warranted. “What I’d like to do is contact the gas company and have them check the meter and make sure it is operating correctly because it doesn’t make sense to me that it more than tripled,” when the facility wasn’t even occupied.
“I know they do energy audits and they could see if we are leaking heat. The bill last month was over $1,100 where the Borough Hall was only $262 and Borough Hall is staffed five days a week,” Oglesby said noting how old Borough Hall was, “I’m sure it isn’t energy efficient.”