BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Township residents will see their taxes to support the municipal government increase $75 a year to $2,461 on a home with an average assessed value of $311,875. Council members introduced the budget which provides $19,520,731, an increase of $365,606 over the 2017 budget, to run the township.  The public hearing and final adoption of the budget is scheduled for May 8. 

Tuesday night’s Township Budget presentation by CFO Michel Marceau came with a “show and tell” prop – one of 16 pistons from the disabled backup generator from the wastewater treatment plant.

During one of the March storms, the backup generator at the plant failed. While the plant was running without difficulty, DEP regulations require there to be a working backup generator on site, so the township rented a temporary unit which costs about $15,000 a month in rental fees. This will be covered by insurance said Marceau during the budget presentation.

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That’s good news and the even better news is “in consultation with our auditors and bond counsel, we are confident we can pay for the repairs/rebuild of the generator via capital, but if that is not an option, replacement will definitely be paid through capital. There will not be any costs in this budget that have any anything to do with the generator,” he said.

The second piece of news wasn’t so good – the four storms in March and April “caused an inordinate buildup of snow at intersections and lots of downed trees,” he said. The DPW brought in outside contractors with “excavation equipment to remove snow and outside contractors to assist with removing trees … in part because of shortcomings with our bucket truck which only reaches 10-15 feet,” Marceau said.

That cost the township “about $48,000,” he said. To deal with the snow and tree clean up expenses, “the Environmental Commission has extended up to $10,000 from their tree removal budget” and the snow removal budget has been increased $35,000, he said. Of the $110,000 budgeted for 2018, $88,000 has already been spent this year, Marceau said, and October, November and December could bring more snow.

The additional snow-related costs add an extra $5 to the average tax bill this year, he said.

Despite those unexpected costs and the addition of another person in the DPW this year, resident John Sincaglia said he noticed, “If you take the debt service out, the rest of the budget is $7,500 less than you spent in 2017.”

Marceau explained that the increase in debt service costs came from borrowing not one but two years’ worth of money in 2017 for road repair, taking out a note in December of 2017 to buy the Hamilton Avenue property and $2 million for professional services for the redevelopment plan.

Sincaglia also congratulated the township for having “a health insurance increase of (only) $10,000.”

Marceau responded, “Our premiums actually went down this year. Hats off to Barbara to that.”

The $19,520,731 budget that funds the running of the municipality includes only 1.83% or $356,368 in “discretionary costs” said Marceau.

The breakdown of the $19,520,731 budget:

·         General Appropriations - $15,226,550, an increase of $274,338

·         Operations Excluded from CAPs - $1,450,490, a decrease of $29,183

·         Capital Improvements - $150,000, a decrease of $105,750

·         Municipal Debt Service - $2,140,691, an increase of $373,201

·         Reserve for Uncollected Taxes - $553,000, a decrease of $147,000

General Revenues for the budget:

·         Surplus Anticipated - $815,000, a $65,000 increase

·         Misc. Revenues - $3,996,553, a decrease of $82,119

·         Receipts from Delinquent taxes - $310,000, a decrease of $125,000

·         Municipal Tax Levy - $13,291,431, an increase of 514,289

·         Library Tax Levy - $1,107,747, a decrease of $6,564

Another source of revenue for the township this year is the Hotel Tax, which the state will not allow to be "anticipated" this year, because there is no historical precedent for that revenue, said Marceau.

A complete copy of the budget presentation made by Marceau can be found here

Copies of previously adopted budgets beginning in 2012 can be found here

The Union County and School District budgets still need to be approved before the total property tax rate is set. Taxes to support the township, including the library, account for about 18.73 percent of the tax bill; the County levy is about 25.11 percent and the school levy about 56.16 percent.