RED BANK: GOP DRAFT BUDGET HAS TAXES UP

schwabenbauer 010216 2Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, who heads the finance committee, says there’s been a “severe” drop in revenue from last year along with an increase in expenses. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

taxesThe first majority-Republican Red Bank budget in a generation is set to make its debut this week, and it comes with a likely tax hike.

While officials are hopeful they can trim the increase, the draft budget shows a 5.5-percent jump in the municipal levy, or roughly $115 a year for the owner of a residential property assessed at the average $354,497, Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer tells redbankgreen.

One way to soften the impact, she said, is to extend the hours for which parking fees are collected.

“We know we won’t be doing” an increase of 5.5 percent, said Schwabenbauer, who heads the borough finance committee. The actual increase “will be less than half that, if my current estimates are correct.”

She noted that last year, after introducing a spending plan with a 3.1-percent tax increase, the majority-Democrat council adopted a budget with no tax increase from 2014.

In a memo to the mayor and council, Schwabenbauer, said this year’s budget is driven by both a “severe” drop in revenue and an increase in expenses.

On the income side, the borough enjoyed a $400,000 infusion last year from the sale of the former Liberty Hose firehouse that won’t be replicated this year. The end of a shared-services agreement with Little Silver means $200,000 less revenue. And delinquent tax collections, which last year yielded $1.03 million, are forecast at $670,000 this year.

“While it’s certainly good news that we are seeing fewer delinquent taxpayers, the anticipated revenue reduction strains our budget,” Schwabenbauer wrote.

Though salaries throughout the borough government are down $27,000 as a result of outsourcing trash collection to a private hauler, which saved $262,000 in public works department salaries, townwide expenses are up $800,000 overall. The biggest pieces of that are identified in the document as the $426,000 cost of the trash hauling contract with Delisa Demolition of Tinton Falls, and $463,000 in bond repayments and interest.

To boost revenue, Schwabenbauer said the committee is considering a proposal to expand the hours of parking meter collections from the current 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to a 12-hour period that starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. The change could generate up to $275,000 in annual revenue, she estimated.

If implemented, “our parking hours will still compare favorably with many surrounding municipalities, and would provide residents and business owners with more time in the morning to utilize local services and coffee shops prior to the start of the workday without consideration of parking fees,” Schwabenbauer wrote.

Though the change would likely produce just $127,000 in added funds this year, because it would be in effect for only part of the year, it alone would cut the proposed tax increase by nearly 25 percent, she said.

The spending plan is scheduled for introduction at Wednesday’s semimonthly council meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m., rather than the usual 6:30 p.m.