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RUMSON’S SPENDING DOWN, TAXES UP

rumson-councilFor the second year in a row, Rumson’s tax rate will increase. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rumson officials told department heads earlier this year to hold the line on expenses, and they did. The council, too, reined in spending for 2011, costing a police department employee a job.

But despite a budget shrinkage of about $250,000, taxes, for the second straight year, are going up in Rumson.

The council introduced its $15 million spending plan for 2011 Tuesday night, a slightly smaller one than last year’s $15.2 million budget.

The increase to the tax rate — from 32 cents per $100 of average assessed property value to 33 cents — is driven in large part by uncontrollable factors, such as pension and health care costs, Administrator Tom Rogers said.

Pension costs soared $139,000, he said, while health care and sewer fees increased by $60,000 each.

“We absorbed those increases, but our tax rate has to go up,” Rogers said. “We’ve always been very conservative in what we’ve done, and the real increases are the increases that are out of our control.”

If approved, this budget would represent a $90 increase in the annual tax bill for a home assessed at the borough average of $1 million. That does not take into account county and school taxes.

Mayor John Ekdahl said formulating this year’s budget wasn’t much different than in past years, despite the new two-percent cap. It was essentially the same mandate as last year, he said.

“We brought the department heads in and told them unless there were anything extraordinary, they had to hold the line,” he said.

The borough also realized savings in three retirements and a layoff of a secretary in the police department. Existing or part-time employees will fill those gaps, Ekdahl said.

“The residents won’t find any decline in service at all,” he said. “The service will be the same as last year, if not better.”

The budget is up for a public hearing at 4:30p, April 5 at borough hall.

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