Higher pension costs and an expected increase in tax delinquencies are the main drivers behind a potential increase in Red Bank's local tax rate, borough officials said last night.
They unveiled a 2009-2010 spending plan that would boost the bill on a home assessed at the average $407,000 by $134 for the year, or three-quarters of one percent.
At the same time, they said they're considering steps that could soften the impact on taxpayers, including a one-day-a-week summer furlough for borough employees.
The $19.4 million budget, does not reflect the savings estimated at $35,000 to $40,000 annually from layoffs of six part-time employees who will be let go this week, said Councilman Mike DuPont, chairman of the borough's finance committee.
"This is not the final document," said Mayor Pasquale Menna.
As it stands, the local portion of the tax rate excluding local school taxes and the Monmouth County levy would be 47.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value, up from 44.5 cents in the current year.
Overall, the budget is slated to grow by less than one percent from
this year, to $19.42 million. Of that, $10.89 million would have to be
raised by taxes, up from $10.1 million.
Excluding salaries, all departments cut their their operating budgets by five percent, DuPont said.
Of that one-percent increase, nine-tenths is attributable to anticipated difficulty in collecting on all taxes owed, said DuPont. Taking into account the impact of the national economic slowdown, the
budget projects the reserve for uncollected taxes
climbing past $1 million in the coming year, from $871,000 this year.
Salaries for the year were budgeted at $7 million, assuming an increase of two percent for the coming fiscal
year. But DuPont said that is a placeholder figure inserted because the
state requires an estimate. The actual increase will be largely
determined in negotiations with labor unions representing the police
and public works employees, he said.
Pension contributions will be fully funded, at an additional cost of $130,000, though recent legislation permits municipalities to defer some of those costs.
"We all decided that would not be the prudent course to take," DuPont said, referring to the finance committee. "We shared some concern about not standing up and paying for our obligations."
Still, Menna said he would like to see projections on the pros and cons of deferring contributions.
One-day-a-week employee furloughs are "not out of the question," DuPont said, adding that the council is awaiting guidance from its attorney on whether such measures can be imposed under the terms of collective bargaining agreements.
Today's Asbury Park Press quotes Menna as saying the furlough program could require employees to work 10-hour days, four days a week.
Summer furloughs at borough hall would also reduce utility costs when they are at their highest point of the year because of air conditioning demands, DuPont said.
The plan assumes a drop of nearly $415,000 in state funding from this year, when the borough got a $350,000 infusion of extraordinary aid. Auditor David Kaplan said the borough is seeking extraordinary aid this year, but there's little likelihood of receiving a similar amount under cuts imposed by the administration of Gov. Jon Corzine.
"We're not counting on it, but if we do get it, all the better," he said.
Menna said the borough this year won't pay for overnight stays for employees who attend the annual League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City. "We just don't have that luxury anymore," he said.
A public presentation by all department heads is scheduled for 6:30p March 31 at borough hall.