BELMAR, NJ — Belmar will not have to pay back a $4.4 million federal community disaster loan after completing a tedious process that documented how the borough used the funds for its recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
The borough learned last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has forgiven the loan, which it received to help the borough remain fiscally stable after the October 2012 epic storm ravaged the Jersey Shore.
Rather than raising taxes and beach, marina and other fees to offset a significant drop in revenues after the storm, the borough took the federal loan in its entirety, spreading the funds across its operating, beach, and water and sewer accounts in 2013, according to borough officials.
“We created a stability that allowed the borough and its residents to recover,” said Business Administrator Colleen Connolly during a presentation at the Belmar Council’s October 2 workshop session. “If we had not taken this loan after the storm, the council would have been faced with raising taxes and cutting expenses. Because we had this bridge, we were able to get through those problematic three years (after the storm).”
During the recovery process, the borough also began to strengthen its financial health through new ways to bring in revenue without raising taxes, including entering shared service agreements with other municipalities, increasing concession rental fees and establishing payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements with businesses in its redevelopment areas.
As a result, recurring anticipated revenues from these sources have climbed nearly $1.5 million over the past four years to about $6.7 million in 2018.
In order to have the loan forgiven, the borough has spent the past year proving to FEMA that the funds were allocated following agency guidelines during its recovery — a complicated process that was managed by Chief Finance Officer Robbin Kirk.
She explained that by not raising taxes and fees, coupled with keeping municipal expenses down across the board, the borough was able to show the federal loan was used to keep it financially stable — and that was the key to ultimately having it forgiven.
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