Hopatcong Introduces Budget

Jim Chaffee asked the Hopatcong Borough Council to consider amending the township ordinances to allow people to keep backyard chickens. He pointed out times are tough and people are getting into self-reliance and want eggs that are not full of hormones or antibiotics. He noted Roxbury Township just changed its ordinances to allow hens.  Credits: By Jane Primerano

HOPATCONG, NJ – Hopatcong Borough Council introduced a budget not much higher than its predecessor at the Wednesday, March 6, council meeting.

A presentation by the borough’s accounting firm outlined the changes from the 2012 budget of $16,179,793 to the 2012 budget of $16,556.560.

The greatest increase was an 8.3 percent jump in debt service from $1,333,600 to $1,231,290.

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Next was the increase in statutory and fixed charges, which are mostly mandated costs, such as the borough contribution to employee pensions and the county-mandated revaluation. Those items increased by 7.7 percent, from $1,550,291 to $1,439,689.

Other increases were in police services and reserve for uncollected taxes.

Borough Administrator Robert Elia said copies of the budget would be available at the municipal building on Thursday, March 7.

The budget comes in under the state mandated spending cap by $521,678 and below the state’s cap on tax levy by $530,689.

The amount to be raised by taxation is $12,931,034. This represents an increase of  .026 dollars. This breaks down to an average increase of $38 on a home assessed at $214,600, which is the borough average.

“We worked very hard to get it down to $38,” Mayor Sylvia Petillo said. “We rearranged expenditures to get it down and not cut back on services. We are working toward a zero percent increase some day. We are continuing to look for ways to save money.”

She thanked the auditors, the borough CFO and Elia for their hard work.

This does not mean the average homeowner’s bill will only increase $38. Municipal taxes represent 28 cents of every $1 collected. The school district takes 53 cents, and Sussex County takes 19 cents.

Assuming a two percent increase in the tax levy from each the county and school, the increase will be .070 dollars. This would mean a total assessment of $3.142 per $100 of valuation of each residence.

Because the borough came in under the state caps, it can “bank” that money for future use.

The state allows a municipality to possess cap banks for up to three years.

After the budget introduction, the council authorized the expenditure of some of its 2012 capital improvement fund surplus. They introduced an ordinance appropriating $80,000 for police equipment.

Elia said the equipment is an upgrade in the computer system that assists record keeping for both the police and fire departments. He said the chief is anxious to make the purchase before the price increases. The administrator noted the chief thinks the equipment is essential and since there is a surplus in the borough’s capital improvement fund it was an opportunity to pay for something without going into further debt.

“It’s not like we were sitting around looking for what we could do with all the extra money,” he said.

The public hearings on both the budget and the ordinance to appropriate the $80,000 will be held at the Wednesday, April 3 council meeting.

In answer to a resident’s question, Elia explained the borough is saving money by entering into a shared services agreement with the county to use an employee of the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority to handle the borough’s recycling paperwork. This will cost about $250 a year, while it costs about $3,000 to train someone to do the work on the local level and the employees would still have to be compensated for his or her time.



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