Committee cuts $295K from preliminary budget

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Zero tax increase eyed

UPPER TOWNSHIP – Township committee cut $295,000 from its preliminary 2013 budget on Monday, meaning that property owners here may not see a tax increase this year.

 

Deputy Mayor Curtis Corson, Jr. opened the budget workshop by saying that the preliminary budget was under the state’s two percent cap, but that it included a one cent property tax increase. Committee members would need to cut $250,000 to bring it to zero, he said.

“That sounds like a good goal to get to,” Mayor Richard Palombo said.

It didn’t take officials long to find the money. After going through the budget line item by line item, finding $45,000 in cuts, committee members took aim at $250,000 in the capital budget for repaving of Bayview Drive in Strathmere.

Corson said that project could be included in a proposed capital bond that was discussed earlier this month.

Towns usually bond for infrastructure improvements or vehicle purchases with longer useful lives. The township used to pay cash for such purchases, but that practice stopped when a local purpose tax was introduced in 2011.

Committeeman Tony Inserra asked why the township would borrow money for something it could pay for now, but Corson said interest rates are so low now that the township could probably get less than one percent interest.

Chief financial officer Barbara Spiegel said Upper Township had recently combined two bonds for beach replenishment projects totaling $2 million. It got an interest rate of .88 percent, she said.

“There’s not another $200,000 in this budget,” Corson said.

“The problem is we’ve been cutting so much there isn’t much left,” Palombo said.

Corson said the $295,000 in cuts would mean a zero tax increase for residents. Palombo said committee had cut enough to get to a zero tax increase, but said he couldn’t promise one because of tax appeals and the potential of hiring a coastal engineer (see related story on new base flood elevations in Strathmere.)

Upper Township implemented a local purpose tax for the first time in 2011. The initial tax rate was 9.3 cents per $100 of assessed value. The tax rate held steady in 2012 with no increase.

Other cuts to the preliminary budget included $5,000 from the clerk’s office, $5,000 from computer expenses, $25,000 from special litigation, and $10,000 from the affordable housing fund.

Palombo said township committee should finalize 2013 budget discussions before taking up a proposed $4.1 million bond for capital improvements. That bond includes money for road paving, new trash trucks, a new boat ramp in Strathmere and a mandated tax revaluation.

Engineer Paul Dietrich said the township has not performed a road paving project since 2009, except for Peach Orchard Road which was funded through a grant. $1.5 million in the proposed bond for repaving would cover four miles worth of road, he said.

“We’re looking at $7.7 million over the next 10 years, $750,000 a year to keep up with maintaining the streets,” he said.

Corson said the township used to appropriate between $300,000 and $400,000 a year for road paving.

Palombo said township committee will go through the proposed bond the same way it has the budget. He didn’t want to discuss the bond in detail Monday because it was not advertised.

“We’ll go through that list as well,” he said.

Palombo asked that the next budget workshop, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11 at Township Hall, include notice that the bond will be a topic.

 


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