RARITAN, NJ - The Raritan Borough Council introduced its 2020 municipal budget in a virtual meeting April 14, with a 0 percent increase in taxes.

According to borough administrator Dan Jaxel, the $12.1 million budget equals a 0 percent increase in property taxes from 2019 for residents, at least for the municipal portion of the tax bill.

“The municipal portion of property taxes will be flat for 2020,” Jaxel said, “but it’s important to remember that the municipal portion of property taxes is under 30 percent of the entire bill. There are also county taxes and school taxes that will affect the final bill.”

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Mayor Zachary Bray thanked the council for their effort to keep the municipal portion of the property tax rate flat once again.  

“We are proud to be able to do so for our residents, especially during these tough times,” he said.  “Thanks to our administrator, CFO and auditors for their hard work on the budget as well.”

Prior to the budget introduction, the council unanimously, absent members Joan Hutzler and Pablo Orozco, introduced an ordinance to establish a cap bank for 2020.

A cap bank ordinance allows the borough to exceed the state mandated cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2020 from its current rate of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, and to bank any unused funds after the township’s final appropriation.

Typically, the cap bank ordinance is approved every year for emergencies. In 2020, it might be needed more than ever.  

But the mayor remained optimistic about the borough’s future.

“While we are concerned from a general perspective about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are thankful in Raritan to have no real signs of major revenue loss from a tax perspective, which will allow us to keep the rate flat once again this year,” he said.

Jaxel added that Raritan residents on the whole are very good at paying their taxes on time. But given the loss of jobs and income this year due to the pandemic, it’s impossible to forecast what will happen.

“It will depend on how long this [shutdown] lasts,” he said.

There was some talk in Trenton about possibly delaying the May 1 due date on quarterly taxes.

On March 14, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3, introduced a bill that among other things would defer property tax payments for between 45 and 60 days to July, but the bill has yet to move forward.   

And with the due date less than two weeks away it looks unlikely that Gov. Phil Murphy will take that step given the economic impact of the pandemic on state funds.

The opportunity for the public to comment on both the 2020 budget and the cap bank will be held on May 12. Whether it will be held at borough hall or online has not yet been determined.