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ANOTHER FAIR HAVEN TAX DROP EXPECTED

fh-boro-hallFair Haven is expected to reduce taxes for the fourth straight year. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

While Governor Chris Christie laid out a state’s budget Tuesday that included a plan to keep state aid to cities and towns flat, Fair Haven, in anticipation of such a move, outlined its own spending plan for the year.

As it’s become custom under Mayor Mike Halfacre, local taxes are going down.

But don’t make dinner reservations just yet. The savings might only get you a half-tank of gas.

When the council introduces its $8.06 million budget next week, it will contain a 0.2-cent drop in the municipal tax rate, meaning average tax bills will see a $15 decrease. With an anticipated new tax rate of 45.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value, the average tax bill go from about $2,450 to $2,440, Halfacre said.

No great windfall for taxpayers, but Halfacre said it’s the best the council could do to uphold its mission, with the borough accounting for only 20 percent of tax bills.

“The overall bills probably will go up, because the fraction we’re going down is made up by other measures,” he said. “No matter what you hear from people, no matter what people say about it, everybody cares about their property taxes. And that’s something we’re committed to.”

This will be the fourth straight year Fair Haven has knocked its portion of tax bills down, despite a sluggish economy and a constant chipping away of state aid.

When Halfacre took office four years ago, Fair Haven received about $737,000 from the state. Last year, aid was slashed about $140,000, to $454,000. Christie announced in his annual budget address Tuesday that state aid would remain flat this year, which Fair Haven planned on.

While there have been hurdles, Halfacre said findings savings through bond restructuring, outsourcing its dispatching services, hiring a new borough administrator and an estimated $200,000 a year from private garbage collection, among other things, has put the borough in a position where it could lower its own bottom line.

“All these little things add up,” Halfacre said. “We’re happy.”

Although Fair Haven will bring its spending down — from $8.1 to $8.06 million — school, county and state costs will undoubtedly dig into pockets this year, Halfacre said.

The council will introduce the 2011 budget at its next regularly scheduled meeting at 7p Monday in borough hall.

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