MIDDLETOWN — At a regular meeting last Monday, the township committee unveiled the municipal budget, which calls for the smallest tax increase in years.
“We really put in a lot of effort to keep the costs down,” stressed Nicola Trasente, chief financial officer, as he made his presentation to the committee and public on Monday.
Trasente said this year’s increase amounts to the lowest the township has seen in a decade. And, he added, a 1.97 percent, the budget comes in at under the state-imposed 2 percent cap.
“That’s no small feat given (that) aid from Trenton has been reduced,” said Committeewoman Stephanie C. Murray.
The township, Trasente said, has seen three years of reductions in state aid.
“You name it. Everything costs more than it did a year ago,” Mayor Anthony Fiore said, explaining that just as higher costs impact family finances, they also impact municipal government, which has experienced hikes in fuel costs, insurance and other expenditures.
“We hope that Trenton finds a way for some of that money we send them to make its way back here,” Fiore said.
As proposed, the approximately $63.5 million budget calls for a 1.1 cent tax increase. If adopted, the budget would bring the municipal tax rate to 48.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. For the average township home, assessed at $380,000, that would mean an increase of $42.87 a month, Trasente said.
The overall budget is increasing by about $1.6 million over the current one. The heaviest costs for the township, Trasente said, include employee health care coverage, projected at $7.8 million; increases in workers compensation insurance, at $1.3 million; hikes in the township’s contribution to unemployment insurance and outlays for accumulated leave pay for retiring employees.
Another big cost to the township over the last three years has been property tax appeals, Trasente said. In 2008 the township’s costs for county and state tax appeal payments was $218,623.51. By 2010 that amount had grown to more than $4 million. In 2011, it went down to $2.8 million.
The reduction last year was due to the reassessment of property in the township, which put the value of properties back in balance, he said.
The township has reduced its workforce by 27 employees as a result of layoffs in the last couple of years, which resulted in significant savings. Restructuring municipal departments, increasing employee contributions to the health plan and limiting contractually-obligated salary increases to 2 percent also saved the township money, he said.
The committee will hold a public hearing on the budget April 30.
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