UPDATE: Lake Como's borough council approved the 2019 budget on May 21.
LAKE COMO, NJ — There was no comment during a public hearing on Lake Como’s proposed $3.56 million budget, but a five-year snapshot of a declining municipal tax rate spoke volumes to a decision made four years ago to outsource the borough’s police operations.
Borough Clerk/Administrator Louise Mekosh provided the borough council on May 7 with statistics showing how the municipal tax rate has fallen from .710 per $100 of assessed valued in 2016 to .587 in 2019. However, the rate did spike to .731 in 2016 — the year that Lake Como voters overwhelming struck down a special referendum that would have raised the municipal tax rate by 22 percent in order to keep the borough’s 10-member police force operational.
At that time, estimates indicated that Lake Como would have needed to spend at least $2.4 million a year to maintain its own police department at the state-recommended capacity. Since then, Lake Como has paid neighboring Belmar about $1 million a year for police services — or 25 percent of Belmar’s annual police budget — under a 10-year shared services contract.
For 2019, a property owner with a home valued at $500,000 will pay $2,935 a year in municipal taxes — down from $3,655 in 2016.
“Savings are going to level out, but the tough decisions have paid off for the residents of Lake Como,” said Mayor Kevin Higgins during the public hearing on the plan, which was approved by the borough council on May 21.
Earlier in his remarks, borough auditor Robert Allison concurred: “It’s been a pleasure for the past couple of years putting the budget together. Changes have had a positive effect on the budget.”
In specifically referring to the nearly $2 million the borough now has in surplus, he said the borough is now prepared for “just about anything that comes down the road.” And that could include capital projects and emergency expenditures, Mekosh explained.
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