By JOHN T. WARD
Typical Red Bank homeowners would see a $x increase in the borough portion of their 2017 property tax bills under a budget introduced at Wednesday night’s council meeting.
For the owner of a home assessed at the town-average $362,342, that means an increase of $57.25 for the year.
The figure does not include school, Monmouth County and Open Space taxes.
The latest spending plan is actually half-a-percent smaller than its predecessor, said borough Chief Financial Officer Eugenia Poulos. Some of that is attributable to a $118,000 decrease in health insurance costs as a result of successful bidding, she said.
The plan is also bolstered by about $250,000 in additional revenue from a controversial increase in parking fees adopted last year to keep a lid on taxes, Poulos noted.
But on the expense side, there’s a seven-percent increase in salaries and wages, including $260,000 more for police, said Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, who heads the finance committee. Pension costs rose $157,000.
“Salaries are up about $584,000, and the vast majority of that is union contracts,” she said. “There’s not a lot you can do about that number.”
Retirement payouts for unused sick and vacation time for highly-paid officials, including Administrator Stanley Sickels, are being covered through a reserve account and won’t directly affect the current budget, Poulos told redbankgreen. However, with that reserve nearly depleted, she plans to fund it with about $100,000 in an effort to restore it for future retirements of employees eligible for the payouts, she said.
The expiration of an $800,000 credit in the water and sewer utility means that department will be contributing $420,000 less to the general budget this year, Schwabenbauer said.
Poulos said the fiscal impact of the ongoing, townwide water meter replacement program cannot yet be determined because only one billing cycle has been run. About half the meters have now been replaced, said utilities Director Cliff Keen.
But overall expenses are down about $740,000, Schwabenbauer said, including a $130,000 drop in debt service. “So it really is a pretty tight budget right now,” she said.
“It raises taxes as little as possible,” said borough Auditor Chuck Fallon, adding the total levy was up just $109,000, or less than one percent, over the past three years.
The plan sets aside $125,000 for anticipated capital improvements at the Chestnut Street public works facility, which is currently the subject of a needs assessment being conducted by T&M Associates.
The site, which houses water wells and treatment facilities, as well as vehicle maintenance garages and trailers that serve as offices for several departments, is badly in need of upgrades, said Keen, who expects a detailed proposal for renovations to be ready in 2018.
An informal presentation about the budget has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m. at borough hall. A final adoption vote by the council is expected one week later.