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Berkeley Heights '12 Budget Includes Small Tax Hike

Mayor Bruno applauds council's proposed $16.9 million budget, up nearly $500,000 from the 2011 plan, in wake of natural disasters. Up next: Public hearing and final adoption at May 8 council meeting.

Berkeley Heights Town Council introduced the $16.9 million 2012 Municipal budget Tuesday night, which includes a $43 tax hike for a home assessed at $307,500.

The total amount generated through taxes is $10,759,341, which is an increase of about $300,000 from 2011. Under the proposed budget, the tax rate is 60.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, up from the 58.8 cents in 2011. The $16,931,986.51 budget is a bump of about $495,000 from 2011.

Mayor Joseph G. Bruno commended the town’s department heads for their “outstanding job with working with last year’s budget” during a “year full of adversity,” mostly due to damage sustained from Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm. Those natural disasters forced the town to spend money that wasn’t allocated in the 2011 operating budget.

This year’s budget is lean and came in under the state-mandated 2 percent cap by $2.3 million, Bruno said, and the town will only make necessary purchases. He was particularly pleased with the council's six-year capital plan because for the first time, council is looking years ahead to improve Berkeley Heights' infrastructure.

Total Budget

2012 $16,931,986 ($495,995 increase)
2011 $16,435,991

 

Amount To Be Raised By Taxes

2012 $10,759,341 ($296,033 increase)
2011 $10,463,308

 

Tax Rate (per $100 of assessed value)

2012 60.5 cents 2011 58.8 cents

“For years, we’ve been saying we need a capital plan. And for years, we’ve left this hearing without a capital plan in place,” Bruno said at Monday night's budget meeting. “This is the first time I can remember that we have a six-year capital plan incorporated into the budget. Is it concrete? No, it’s a plan and plans change. But at least we have a map to guide us for the next six years with what we need… the plan is there to keep the infrastructure in Berkeley Heights going.”

Requests for the six-year capital plan were divided among six town departments: Administration, Public Works, Recreation, Sewer, Police and Fire. Those requests, between 2012 and 2017 — including the $368,096 already spent in 2011 — totals roughly $6.2 million and are subject to change at any time.

Large capital expenditures for 2012 add up to $1,346,178. Broken down by department, they include:

  • $32,300 for Administration ($20,000 is earmarked for data storage clean-up for town documents)
  • $273,000 to the DPW for a tree chipper and masonry dump truck and improvements to various buildings
  • $200,000 to the DPW for street sign replacement, crack sealing, microsurfacing, road milling and repaving, and road reconstruction
  • $19,000 for Sandpro equipment for the Recreation Department
  • $123,239 for the Sewer Plant (new vehicle, building and station improvements, and sanitary sewer pipe rehab)
  • $632,299 for the Police Department (new SUVs, SUV outfitting, in-car videos, new equipment for patrol cars, thermal imaging monocular and dispatch upgrade)
  • $66,34020 for the Fire Department (turnout gear, hose air packs, tri-pod confined space, mobile radios, confined space vent fan, pagers, thermal imaging camera and generators)

Capital projects originally totaled $1,469,418 for this year. But several council members agreed that the benchmark for projects in the capital plan should be $1 million each year, plus or minus 10 percent.

On Monday night, council members worked with employees from the Police, Fire, DPW and Sewer departments to move some capital projects from 2012 to later years so the 2012 capital plan budget could be reduced.

Councilman Edward Delia called for the elimination of the Spring Residential Clean-Up — where all town residents can place items they want to dispose of at their curb for a one time pick-up — to save $109,000 for tax payers. He suggested that it be placed in the operating every other year instead.

But Councilman Thomas Pirone opposed the motion, saying that the math wouldn't work. Pirone said that if the $109,000 clean-up is taken out of the 2012 budget and added for 2013, “you’d be chewing up $109,000, which may be ¼ of the allowed increase for the whole year” and would take up money that could be allocated for something else, such as another capital project.

“So to stick it back in next year after you took it out this year would be very difficult,” he said.

On Tuesday night, council voted to award a contract to Regional Industries, LLC of Elizabeth for the Spring Residential Clean-Up. Delia was the only councilman to vote against the resolution. Bruno urged all residents to participate in the clean-up this year, as it may not be offered in future years.

The public hearing and final adoption of the proposed 2012 municipal budget is scheduled for May 8 at 7 p.m.

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