HOPATCONG BOROUGH, NJ - “Thank you for a thankless job,” borough resident Bob Durham said to the borough council during the public hearing for the 2013 municipal budget.
The council then adopted the $16,556,560 budget after the public hearing. The budget represents a 2.3 percent increase over the 2012 budget.
Council adopted an ordinance allowing for a 3.5 percent increase. Borough auditor Paul Lerch explained the borough can bank that increase for up to two years in case of an emergency.
Taxes will go up for borough residents. The municipal portion will increase by 2.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The county and school district have not struck tax rates, but the Sussex County rate is estimated to go up by 1.2 cents per $100 and the school rate is estimated to increase by 3.2 cents for $100. The total will be close to 7 cents.
Of a dollar of property tax paid by a borough homeowner, 28 cents will go to the municipality, 53 cents to the school district and 19 cents to the county. The average residential home value in the borough is $214,600, meaning a $38 tax increase.
The average home value has decreased since the revaluation.
Durham pointed out there are still foreclosures in the borough and many more people having trouble paying for their homes.
“There are costs we have no control over,” Council President Richard Bunce said. “We cut where we could.”
“If we cut services too deeply, the quality of life goes down and people won’t move in,” Councilman Howard Baker said.
Councilwoman Marie Galate also pointed out, “this council actively seeks grants.”
The borough received grants for energy and an ambulance and stimulus money for street lights and sidewalks.
Landscaping at the borough hall was paid for by donations, Mayor Sylvia Petillo said, from residents, Hudson Farms, construction companies and PSE&G.
Resident Michelle Guttenburg contested that, claiming the money from PSE&G was a “settlement.”
After the meeting, Township Attorney John Ursin explained PSE&G had been sued by several towns over powerlines. The company went to municipalities the powerlines touched and offered them funds. “They came and said, ‘how about a grant and then you agree not to sue’,” he said. He noted the lines cross a tiny, wooded corner of Hopatcong.
Ursin said that is not a settlement since the borough had never considered a lawsuit and did not negotiate with the power company at all.
In other business, Baker announced the borough police department was designated a permanent, secure depository for unused medicine. Residents can take the drugs to the county landfill in Lafayette at designated time, but there are three of the depositories at police departments around the state.
He pointed out residents must not flush unused medicine into septics or the sewer system because even sewage treatment plants do not neutralize all chemicals, and the water eventually goes into the Musconetcong and then the Delaware.
Bunce said he has heard a rumor residents may get a letter advising them to get insurance on their water lines from the borough system. He said insurance is not necessary and the letter is a ploy to sell insurance from the company that sells it.
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