SPARTA, NJ- The Sparta Township Council had their first public discussion of the proposed budget at the council meeting on Tuesday, March 11. Township Finance Director Sam Rome and Interim Township Manager Steven Levinson gave an overview of the budget.
The proposed total municipal levy increase is 1.75 per cent equating to $427,753 over 2013, for a total proposed budget of $24,937,837. Taxes make up the bulk of revenue at 65 percent of the budget. Second to that is anticipated surplus at ten percent, required to provide a buffer against delinquent tax payers and successful tax appeals.
Increases in salary and other expenses are offset by a decrease in total municipal debt service and municipal library obligation. The state determines the amount of money required to be paid for the municipal library tax, based on the valuation of the township. The Capital Improvement line is unchanged from last year, at $1 million. There are no new major initiatives in thisproposed budget.
The largest increases are for contractually negotiated police salaries and township employee health benefits and insurance. Anticipating four officers retiring in February, the budget includes salaries for four new hires. Because of the requisite training time, there will be an overlap of service, requiring a period when the new officers will be on the payroll while the retiring officers are still serving Sparta.
Township devaluation has a major impact on the tax levy. Primarily due to successful tax appeals, the net valuation of taxable properties has decreased by approximately $17 million for 2014. This requires the rate to increase, even before an expansion of the budget. In other words, if the budget remained unchanged for next year, taxes would still need to increase. Expenditures remain constant so the portion that each resident must pay increases, to make up for the loss in value of some properties.
There will be a reassessment of the entire town beginning at the end of this year. It is typical for a town to reassess approximately every ten years. The expectation is that reevaluating every property will serve to lessen the number of tax appeals and level out the tax burden for the municipality.
The calculated tax impact on the average assessed home is $75.46 for proposed municipal budget. That average value for a home in Sparta has increased this year after a couple of years on the decline. For 2014 the average residential home is assessed at $295,900. Last year it was $293,400.
The township is restricted by the two percent levy cap as well as numerous regulations and restrictions from statute dating back to 1977. The state determines the amount of money required to be paid for the municipal library tax.
The public hearing for the municipal budget is scheduled for April 8 at 7:30 p.m.