LAKE COMO, NJ —Three years after Lake Como eliminated its police department, the borough continues to reap the financial benefits of that decision — with another decrease this year in the municipal tax rate.
Under the borough’s $3.56 million proposed budget, $2.54 million will be raised through taxation, compared to $2.63 million last year. That means the average homeowner will pay 5.3 cents less on every $100 of assessed value. On a home valued at $425,000 — the borough average — the municipal tax levy of nearly $2,500 in 2019 will be $225 lower than last year.
Calling it a “very good fiscally prepared budget,” Borough Clerk/Administrator Louise Mekosh said the spending plan allows the borough to add another $150,000 from increased revenues to its surplus, which now tops nearly $1.75 million — up from $1.3 million in 2017.
In the 27 years since he’s been on the governing body, Council President Douglas Witte said this is the largest surplus he has seen in the borough’s coffers. “We are doing very well financially. Taxpayers are getting a decrease (in municipal taxes) for the third year in a row,” he said during the budget’s introduction on April 2.
A public hearing and final vote by the borough council on the 2019 budget is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Lake Como Borough Hall, 1740 Main Street.
To view Lake Como's proposed 2019 budget, click here.
At that time, a presentation by borough auditor Robert Allison will focus on how the borough has been able to improve its fiscal health since the 10-member police force was eliminated in May 2016 — after Lake Como voters overwhelming defeated in a special referendum a proposed municipal tax hike of 22 percent due in large part to keep the department. Estimates at that time showed it would have cost Lake Como at least $2.4 million a year to maintain its own police department at a state-recommended capacity.
Lake Como is now in the fourth year of a 10-year shared services contract with Belmar for police services — at a cost this year of $1.25 million, which is $75,000 more than its 2018 expenditure.
Under the agreement, Lake Como pays 25 percent of Belmar’s annual police budget, excluding special police officers who fortified the force during the busy summer season for both municipalities.
Other highlights of the 2019 budget include:
- Under a shared services agreement with Belmar for fire protection services, nearly $35,700 has been appropriated. In addition, it will pay Belmar First Aid Squad $30,000 this year for its services.
- For the second consecutive year, most borough employees will receive a pay raise that will average about 2 percent. It has budgeted a total of $664,000 for salary and wages.
- Expenses for solid waste collection has climbed from $65,000 to $81,000 — due in large part to the rising cost of the disposal of recyclables.
- The borough has placed another $153,000 in accumulated leave compensation for employee retirements in the coming years. In 2018, it started the account with $110,000 of which $82,525 was spent.
- It has begun to plan for the borough’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2024, setting aside $2,000 this year — and planning to do that same for the following four years.
- Lake Como has allocated $2,000 for seniors to join Belmar’s senior citizens program, picking up the $50 per person cost.
- After the borough’s final “legacy” expense of $164,000 for police pensions was included in the 2018 budget, this expenditure has dropped to nearly $14,000 for this year.
- Its capital budget includes $25,000, earmarked for road improvements.
- Under the borough’s dedicated utility budget, its appropriation to the Monmouth Regional Sewerage Authority will climb nearly 9.4 percent to $598,000.
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