BELMAR, NJ — For the seventh consecutive year, Belmar property owners will not see an increase in their municipal tax bill, under a $23.4 million budget approved on June 7 by the borough council.
The amount to be raised through taxation will remain at $7.2 million, as the borough continues to fill its coffers through other recurring revenue-generating sources.
Since 2010, Belmar has been able to find ways to bring in an additional $2 million in revenue — rather than raise taxes — translating into total tax savings of $975,000 over the past seven years, said Chief Financial Officer Robbin Kirk during her 2017 budget presentation before its final passage.
Stressing that saving nearly $1 million in tax dollars is real money, Mayor Matthew Doherty said, “No other town in New Jersey has saved taxpayers that much money. Virtually no other town collects less in property taxes today than they did in 2010.”
Since 2010, the percentage of budgetary expenses paid through municipal taxes has declined from 35 percent to 28 percent, Doherty explained. “We have been able to reduce the taxpayers’ burden, while increasing services, like those for seniors, recreation and public works. And we did it while the worst natural disaster in New Jersey landed on our doorstep,” he said, referring to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
A major source of this steady stream of revenue has been generated through shared service agreements with other municipalities. For example, in the first full year of Belmar’s 10-year contract with Lake Como for police services, it will bring in nearly $1.2 million — of which “we will be netting $600,000 to our revenues,” Kirk said.
Additionally, Belmar will collect another $310,000 for shared services with Lake Como for code enforcement and municipal court operations, Spring Lake for financial officer and tax collector services, and municipal court operations, and Spring Lake Heights for police dispatch services.
While these shared services agreements demand more from borough employees, Doherty said, “they generate more revenue to benefit taxpayers.”
Another pool of income has been derived from payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreements from businesses in its redevelopment areas, such as the recently opened Marina Grille. This year, Belmar will take in a total of $115,000 from this revenue source.
Mayor Matthew Doherty pointed out that as these recurring revenues in both shared services and PILOT payments increase over time, the actual tax levy should remain stable, posturing Belmar on sound financial footing for quite some time.
Kirk and Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly agreed that borough employees have been able to work under an expense-controlled environment. “Seven years of zero property tax increases does not happen by accident. It is very difficult to do and very orchestrated to do,” said Connolly, acknowledging Kirk’s role in the process. “Robbin (Kirk) and I are really good at saying ‘no’ to increasing expenditures, and without the cooperation our department heads, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Here’s a snapshot of the 2017 municipal budget:
- The proposed $23.4 million budget is about $78,878 less, or 0.34 percent, than last year. It is divided into four distinct categories of revenues and expenses:
- $15 million in the Current Fund
- $3.4 million in the Water and Sewer Utility
- $4.86 million in the Beach Utility
- $165,500 in the Parking Utility
- The municipal tax levy (amount to be raised through municipal taxes) of $7.2 million includes a state-mandated $522,000 library tax — resulting in the flat tax rate over the previous year.
- Legal fees stand at $216,000, compared to $121,000 in 2016 — earmarked for a number of lawsuits against the borough related to its beachfront development plans and the disputed liquor license transfer at 710 River Road.
- There is nearly $1.4 million in the budget’s surplus account.
- Major improvements totaling $1 million are planned for the Eighth Avenue and 15th Avenue playgrounds and Three-Acre Park on Main Street.
- Another $2 million will be spent on the borough’s ongoing water infrastructure improvement project, which has been ongoing since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Borough property owner should note that while municipal taxes will remain unchanged, school taxes are increasing nearly $1.6 cents on every $100 of assessed home value, and the borough is still awaiting the amount of its Monmouth County tax levy.
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