TOMS RIVER – There will be a slight increase in the municipal taxes for Toms River residents, according to township officials, if the recently proposed budget is approved.
The total budget would be $125,558,745.26. This would be an increase of $612,441.46 from last year’s total budget of $124,946,303.80.
The amount to be raised by taxes would be $82,590,921.61. This would be an increase of $2,198,149.29 from last year’s tax levy of $80,392,772.32.
The local tax rate would increase by .86 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, from 63.3 cents to 64.16 cents.
The owner of a home assessed at $250,000 would pay approximately $22.81 more per year in municipal taxes.
“The budget, as proposed, represents less than a .05 percent increase in the overall size of the budget from 2016,” Mayor Thomas Kelaher said in a press release. “It is also a comfortable $2.5 million under the 2 percent tax levy cap.”
Municipalities are required by law to keep tax increases less than 2 percent, although there are some increases that fall outside the regulations.
The portion of the budget dedicated to salaries and wages increased 1.74 percent. Collective bargaining agreements were settled through 2017, with 2 percent being the average level. Retirement payouts for accumulated sick time were left out of any contracts after 2010.
There are no new positions, Business Administrator Paul Shives said. Any police officers that retired will be replaced, keeping the town’s full complement of 160 officers.
There were a few small decreases throughout the budget. For example, there was a reduction in the cost of administration by $46,000. Additionally, many departments have a line item for uncharacterized costs, called “other expenses.” These were reduced by 3 percent.
One of the challenges of crafting this budget, officials said, involved the after-effects of Superstorm Sandy. The storm, four and a half years ago, wiped out $2 billion in ratables. That means that there were $2 billion worth of buildings that were destroyed and could no longer be taxed. A tax hole that large had to be made up by the rest of the township. Now, there are more houses being built, so the hole is filled in somewhat. However, officials said that the township has $600 million less in ratables than it had previously.
Another large chunk of money is the reserve for uncollected taxes. In the proposed budget, there would be $10.5 million of the budget set aside for the reserve for uncollected taxes. By state law, the town collects all taxes, and then doles it out to the county, school, and other entities. However, if someone does not pay their taxes, the township still has to make the county and other entities whole. So, the town has to raise additional taxes from the people who do pay. This $10.5 million saw an increase of about $400,000.
“The 2017 budget will keep property taxes as low as possible while maintaining the quality of essential services. Management practices and financial planning measures that are already in place are helping us save money, and we will continue to look for more cost-saving opportunities in the future,” Kelaher said.
The public hearing on the budget will be held on April 18 at 6 p.m. in the L. Manuel Hirshblond Room in Town Hall.