Council introduced the proposed $16.8M Municipal Budget Monday night, which boasts a $58.73 tax increase on the average assessed home at $282,000.
The budget is available on the borough’s website. Council President Michael Gennaro urged residents to review the budget throughout the next month and bring their questions to the March 27 public hearing or send questions to Borough Administrator Doug Marvin in advance.
“[As a] result of appropriations going up by $204,000 and revenues going down by approximately $83,000, the overall tax increase is $287,000. Coupled with a slight increase in our valuations of $1,885,000, the net increase in the rate on a percentage basis, year over year, is 2.45 percent,” Gennaro explained. “Most of that increase occurs outside of the cap. If you recall, we have a 2 percent cap that applies to us. Of the appropriations within the cap, it’s only roughly about 0.25 percent. So everything outside the cap is more of what’s driving the [tax] increase.”
Gennaro said when all exclusions are considered, which include pension increases, capital improvements, and increase in debt service, the borough is approximately $253,000 under the tax levy cap, meaning the borough could have legally increased taxes by another $253,000 beyond which they are proposing.
“Believe me, we’re all taxpayers and we don’t want to do that,” Gennaro said.
The key drivers for the proposed budget, which were outlined at the Feb. 13 council meeting, include: reductions in staff through attrition, totaling $156,000 in savings for the borough; extending an existing garbage disposal agreement to save the borough $25,000; a reduction in the borough's pension allotment for a savings of $101,000; 28 percent reduction in the borough's electricity bill after electricity purchases were reverse auctioned on the Internet, for a savings of $53,000; and borough employees are now contributing to their health benefits.
“The introduction of this budget is I think, in the end, a very responsible budget. As I mentioned at the last meeting , what we try to do is a five year forecast and during that five year period, we try to make pretty much even increases as best we can over that period of time so there are no major swings up or down,” Gennaro said. “We’re not trying to make ourselves look good in any given year by throwing an unreasonably low increase that’s going to make it get larger in later years. We’re just trying to be very up front with the taxpayers, fully inform them on what the cost of government services are year over year, and lend those increases on a fairly consistent basis over that period of time.”
Gennaro said borough administration and staff have been very creative with reducing costs for the borough in prior years.
“They’re constantly looking for ways to save and you see it reflected in this budget,” he said.
The formal public hearing on this Municipal Budget is scheduled for the March 27 council meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Center.