Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore promised an on-time budget. Check.
He said it’d be significantly smaller than 2010’s budget. Check.
He also promised it would be within the state’s new two-percent property tax cap. Technically a check although the tax levy will be raised 2.99 percent over the current year’s.
“We are under the two-percent cap but there are a few exemptions,” he said. “Really, the pension costs and the snowstorms took us .99 percent over the cap, but that’s allowed.”
At $61.1 million, the 2011 budget, introduced Monday night, represents a 6 percent cut in spending, or $4 million. But it comes with an increase to local taxes due to an influx of tax appeals that cost the township around $5 million, officials say.
Of the total, $46.7 million will be raised through municipal taxes, a 2.99 percent increase over 2010. The increase is allowed under the new tax cap because the increase is compromised mostly of health insurance and pension increases, both exemptions to the cap, Chief Financial Officer Nic Trasente said.
In a press release issued prior to the township committee meeting, Fiore said the total $1.36 million tax increase “complies with the new 2% cap levy law.”
If approved, the tax rate will increase nearly 8 cents because of the town’s recent property reassessment from 39.8 cents to 47.2 cents per $100 of average assessed property value.
“It’s an 8-cent increase, but dollar-wise it went down,” Trasente said.
For a home with the average assessed value of $380,000, local taxes would increase $60.04 a year, or $5 a month.
Cutting spending was a huge priority this year, Fiore said. With a shared service agreement with Monmouth Regional Health Services, the township anticipates saving about $188,000; privatizing contracts for street and road work will help save about $230,000
The budget also includes a potential 26 layoffs, including those of 10 police officers, which will save the town $1.27 million in salaries and benefits.
Contract negotiations are still ongoing to try and save those jobs, Fiore said.
The town took a hard hit on healthcare costs this year, accounting for about $8 million, as well as insurance, making concessions by bargaining units all the more imperative, he said, not only to save jobs, but to keep spending down.
“The healthcare costs are really starting to be staggering,” Fiore said. “We really need to do something about these rising costs.”
And yet, Middletown was able to deliver a budget that tightens spending, Fiore lauded, but at the same time acknowledged that it came at a price of its own.
“Find a municipality that’s going to cut six percent of its appropriations despite rising costs,” he said, “and it’s going to be painful.”
Last year, Middletown officials got roasted for exceeding the tax cap, not to mention dragging the process out well into the year. Fiore vowed that wouldn’t be the case this year, and although he said he’s still hopeful the town’s unions will offer concessions, Middletown is intent on having a plan in place no matter what.
“The goal is working together and coming to on agreement to get savings dollar for dollar, and we’ll bring jobs back,” he said. “If we can’t we’ll move forward, and that’s what this budget is doing.”
The budget, which is set for a public hearing May 2, can be viewed on the township’s new website.