By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
In Little Silver, spending is down. Revenues are down. The workforce, too, is down.
Now the tax rate is following suit.
“Everything is down,” said Administrator Michael Biehl.
Everything, that is, except for paychecks.
The council last Thursday approved the borough’s $10 million budget, which accomplishes an unlikely balance: a reduction in the tax rate and a boost in salaries for certain employees.
While other towns, like Red Bank, have renegotiated their police contracts to allow for furloughs, Little Silver officials were able to make good on the last year of a four-year contract that calls for a 4-percent increase. All other employees will receive a 2-percent boost.
The new fiscal plan will drop the tax rate by almost half a penny, from 50.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value, to 49.9 cents. Biehl said the average home is assessed at around $500,000; that equates to a $15 drop in the tax bill for the year.
Despite a slash in state aid for the third year in a row, and a drop in other revenues, Biehl said the council and department heads planned on tough times, but worked on keeping them from residents’ tax bills. He said no services were compromised, and there were no layoffs or furloughs.
“We’re doing pretty well,” Biehl said. “We’re holding our own in that regard.”
The council cut spending by $307,000, Biehl said, to accomplish its goal. Capital spending is also down by $593,000.
In some areas, the council was able to save by not filling positions left vacant by attrition, or contracted out the service to another town. For example, the borough struck a deal with Red Bank for fire marshal services after its own fire marshal retired.
The dip in the tax rate should not come as a sign of immunity from tough times, Biehl warns. Putting the budget together was “very difficult,” he said.
Layoffs, furloughs and other ways to keep costs down may be considered in future budgets if trends continue, he said.
“The revenues continue to go down,” he said. “I don’t know what the future holds.”