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‘EXTRAORDINARY’ $350K TRIMS TAX RISE

Red_bank_riverviewThe burden of providing services to nonprofits such as Riverview Medical Center, above, that pay no property taxes was cited by Red Bank officials in their application for special state aid this year.

An award of $350,000 in extraordinary state funding will enable Red Bank officials to trim an anticipated local tax increase when they finalize the new budget later this month, chief financial officer Frank Mason said last night.

Instead of a $311 increase on homes assessed at the average $406,627 that officials had expected, those homes would pay $216 more than last year, according to figures Mason provided. That’s a 15.9 percent rise in the local tax from the present level, as opposed to the 20 percent increase forecasted earlier this year.

The tax from from the borough school district also rose this year. But because of declines in the rates levied by Monmouth County and the Red Bank Regional High School district, overall taxes paid by Red Bank residents will increase 3.4 percent this year.

For the owner of a home at the average assessment, that means a total tax bill this year of $6,481.63 versus $6,266.12 last year.

The extraordinary aid gets most of the credit for softening the blow in what borough officials had painted as a dire fiscal picture. Though the borough had asked the Corzine administration for $500,000, citing the drain on resources from numerous nonprofits based in town, Mason said the sum awarded dwarfs any in recent memor.

“Three hundred and fifty thousand is outstanding,” he told redbankgreen. “I was surprised overall. I think we demonstrated a strong need, and the state recognized that.”

“We’re very grateful” for the sum, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

An amendment to the pending budget ordinance that’s expected to be adopted at the July 28 council session also reflects $241,000 in spending cuts that borough officials have come up with since the spending plan was introduced in March, Mason said. But those have been offset “almost to the penny” by soaring costs for fuel, utilities and legal fees on tax appeals, resulting in a wash, he said.

In one of his final critiques before resigning last night, Councilman John Curley lambasted the culture under which the borough holds its breath each year while awaiting the announcement of extraordinary aid figures from Trenton. Instead, he said, the borough should use zero-based budgeting to balance its ledgers regardless of whatever the state ponies up.

“This is no way to run a budget,” he said. “It’s just not the proper way to do things — to be dependent on gifts.”

But Councilman Art Murphy challenged Curley “when you get up to the freeholder level” to use his power of persuasion on Trenton to change the way towns pay for services.

“We’re not the only town that is getting this,” Murphy said.

Menna jumped in, too, telling Curley that every department in the borough had been offered the opportunity to prepare its budget on a zero-based methodology, but none had done so. Moreover, he said, “nobody anticipated oil prices tripling in a couple of months. Are you going to tell the police department they can’t cruise around? You can’t heat your building?”

This year the state doled out $9 million less in extraordinary aid than it did last year, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Red Bank got “zero” extraordinary aid for the 2007-’08 fiscal year. In ’06-’07 the sum was $125,000, and in each of the prior three years it was $100,000, Mason said.

The borough is home to 183 parcels worth some $381 million — some 17 percent of the total — that pay no taxes, the borough’s application noted.

Here’s the borough’s application for the money: Download red_bank_aid_app_2008.pdf

Posted byJohn T. WardPosted inAll Good, Charity, Government, Taxes

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