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RED BANK: WEED TAX FOR REC, WATER RATE HIKES ON TAP

 

A Red Bank water bill, about to grow larger. (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE

The Borough Council will take its first vote on a series of water and sewer rate hikes Thursday along with a final vote on a plan to devote all money raised from a tax on recreational cannabis sales to, well, recreation programs. 

It’s another busy agenda for a borough manager and council who have been ripping through a to-do list of projects as the latter wind up their first full year in office. 

Also on the docket: a public hearing on the borough’s application for a grant from Monmouth County for the remake of Marine Park. 

red-bank-marine-park-concept-030719-500x253-4805750

A diagram of the changes in store for Marine Park.(Click to enlarge.)

The council is slated to vote on the introduction of an ordinance that would raise water rates incrementally in each of the next five years for a total hike of about 46 percent by 2029.

The first hike would raise water rates from $7.11 per 1,000 gallons to $7.79 on August 5. The plan tops out at a cost of $10.35 per 1,000 gallons in the final year.

Sewer charges would also increase, from a current rate of $8.90 per thousand gallons to a rate equal to 125 percent of the rates charged for water. More details of the plan can be found in previous redbankgreen coverage here.

The council will also hold a public hearing and final vote on a plan to devote all money raised from a two percent tax on cannabis sales to the borough’s parks and recreation trust fund. The first of three licensed cannabis retailers opened in February. Two more have been issued licenses by the borough, but have yet to open.

Under state law, the borough can collect a two percent tax on cannabis sales within its borders.

At the council’s last meeting Deputy Mayor Kate Triggiano explained she and council member Laura Jannone, and Mayor Billy Portman met as an ad-hoc group and decided it was best for the new, uncertain source revenue to be devoted to a single purpose.

“This earmarks the money in a clear spot, in a clear tab, as opposed to it going into miscellaneous revenue,” Triggiano said.  “We just believe from a public health approach and perspective that there should be a visible and felt improvement by the public from this revenue so that we can physically go somewhere and point to something and say that is due to cannabis revenue. We really wanted to avoid it just going into miscellaneous revenue and people saying “well what did the cannabis revenue really do?”

The parks and recreation trust fund is a dedicated pool of money that includes borough funding, donations from the public, program fees and some Marine Park parking permits issued by the borough, borough attorney Greg Cannon explained.

If the amount of money exceeds what is needed for recreation programs, the council can pass an ordinance in the future to funnel the money to other parts of the budget.

For now, Jannone said the recreation department seemed the best fit for a nascent revenue stream whose eventual size no one can accurately predict.

“We don’t have a lot of funds right now because there’s only one cannabis shop,” Janone explained.  “So it the analogy to me, it’s like a beer budget not a boat budget right now.”

The council will also hold a public hearing on the borough’s application for a $500,000 Monmouth County opens space grant for what has been dubbed the Marine Park Open Space Improvement Project.

The plan, for which the borough recently approved the issuance of $4 million in bonds for the project, which includes converting the parking lot at the water’s edge into a lawn for recreation and events.

The parking area would be moved to the former clay tennis courts destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The meeting begins at 6:30 pm at Borough Hall, 90 Monmouth Street. It can also be attended virtually on zoom. The full agenda and zoom link are available here.

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