BARNEGAT – The Township Committee adopted a $30 million budget for 2022, raising property taxes by 3.4 percent.
“We’re doing the best we can to keep the tax rate down,” said Tom Lombarski, Chief Financial Officer. “The average tax increase will be $23.29, which is very low.”
Lombarski said this $23.29 is based on the average valuation for a home in town, which is $258,737. This year, the municipal tax rate will be .951 per $100 of assessed valuation. Compared to last year’s .942, it represents an increase of slightly less than 1 cent.
Terms like assessment and valuation come from the town’s tax assessor. They don’t represent how much you paid for your home.
The spending plan appropriates approximately 42 percent of the entire budget for salaries and wages. Barnegat employs 117 full-time workers and 40 part-time employees for a total personnel cost of $20.8 million.
Broken down further, the budget allocates $41,176 to compensate the governing body, with no allowances for pension or health benefits. Ten full-time department heads and managers account for $1.75 million, while 51 police officers, including superior officers, are budgeted at $11.8 million. Finally, allocations of $7.2 million are budgeted for the remaining 91 full-time and part-time employees.
In February, Barnegat Township officials added to its payroll with the appointment of Kurt Otto, PE as Township Engineer at an annual salary of $155,000. The Township created the full-time position with plans of saving expenses on outside engineering consulting fees.
“We anticipate this happening, but we won’t know any net effect until after a complete year,” said Lombarski. “Or, at least until year-end 2022.”
This year’s budget includes reducing the Township’s reserve for compensated absences from $100,000 to $75,000, including an adequate amount for expected retirements.
Shared services agreements continue to play a role in balancing the municipal budget. The costs for the Construction Code Official, UCC and Plumbing Inspector, as well as the Recreation Director are split with the Township of Ocean.
“We are continuing to explore shared service agreements,” Lombarski said. “We now have a full year with the dispatchers and Stafford. We have also taken on IT services with Toms River.”
Barnegat Township experienced significant cost increases that required additional surplus use and reduction of some budgeted expense lines. Township officials approved a $150,000 contract with Quality Medical Transport for 24/7 ambulance services.
Concerns about the volunteer first aid department’s response time resulted in the Township’s decision to hire Quality for emergency transport services. The contract calls for one ambulance throughout the day, with Barnegat First Aid providing back up services.
Additionally, the Township received a 37 percent increase in trash collection and a 116 percent rise in recycling costs.
“The trash and recycling costs could have been even worse if the contract terms were not adjusted to level out over the next five years,” Lombarski explained. “We also appropriated 19 percent more for higher gasoline costs.”
The 2022 budget utilizes $1.5 million of the Township’s fund balance as opposed to last year’s use of $1,275,000. Lombarski anticipates an additional $1.5 million in surplus from increased ratables due to construction and new homes.
Tax collection obviously plays a major role in ensuring the spending plan works. Barnegat’s 2021 tax collection rate was 98.77 percent, slightly down from 99.12 percent in the prior year.
Municipal taxes represent only one portion of property owners’ tax bills. The local school district has not yet passed its budget for this year, which accounts for part of the bill. The Ocean County Board of Commissioners 2022 budget decreases the tax rate to .322 cents per $100 of equalized property value.