Wildwood introduces budget with 17-cent tax rate increase

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WILDWOOD – The Board of Commissioners introduced a budget Wednesday, June 11 that includes a 17-cent increase to the city’s tax rate, citing a recent reassessment and bolstered public safety as key reasons for the hike.

The proposed $25.18 million budget is over $1 million more than 2013’s municipal spending plan. It’s supported by a $18.05 million tax levy, also up just over $1 million from last year.

According to information provided by the city, the average property owner will see a tax increase of $148 under the proposed budget. But, city officials are stressing that the recent revaluation will actually result in a decrease in taxes for many residents, despite the vote to significantly increase the tax rate.

“The average property in Wildwood is assessed at $204,811 with a municipal tax of $2,607.  A recent revaluation saw the average property value drop from $222,927 with a municipal tax of $2,459,” a release from the city states.

City officials are saying the increase is to help offset the cost of more police officers and firefighters. There are seven new full time police officers, three firefighters, and 60 class II officers, which is double last year’s 30.

“We’ve heard the public outcry for increased public safety and we are addressing those concerns,” said commissioner for revenue and finance Pete Byron in a statement.

After the meeting, Mayor Ernie Troiano said that the additional public safety personnel are addressing Wildwood’s concerns as an urban community and stressed that the city should not be compared to nearby communities of North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.

In a press release from the city, Wildwood auditor Glen Ortman said 10.1 cents of the proposed tax increase is due to the city’s recent reassessment.  The city saw its ratable base drop 7.9 percent, from $1.54 billion to $1.41 billion. The remaining 6.9 cents of the tax increase is for operations, including 6.4 cents dedicated to public safety.  Only .5 cents is earmarked for operating costs other than public safety.

The city’s neighboring communities of North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest have ratable bases of $2.716 billion and $2.298 billion, respectively.

Besides the new officers and firefighters, Wildwood officials say that the city is working to keep costs down. Other than those new positions in public safety, there were no additional positions added in the municipality, the city said.

Wildwood also shares a tax assessor with North Wildwood, which equals a 40 percent savings on that salary. The city has also combined its water utility, sewer and tax collection departments into one department.

According to Byron, Mary D’Arcy Bittner was hired as a full-time city solicitor at $175,000, which is a significant decrease from when the city used Marcus Karavan as a contracted solicitor, which cost the city $340,000 a year.  

Included in the proposed budget is $175,000 of new revenue obtained through new beach services such as concerts, ice cream vendor licenses and food vendor licensing. A $600,000 reduction in the city’s debt is also included, officials said.

After the meeting, Troiano added that the city is still looking for other ways to offset the tax increase in the budget, before the second reading, public hearing, and final vote, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 9 at City Hall, 4400 New Jersey Ave.


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