CHATHAM, NJ - After some back-and-forth between committee members on what the open space tax should be, Thomas Ciccarone interrupted, noting to the media in attendance that the big news from the Chatham Township Committee meeting was the 2016 municipal budget he was about to introduce.
The township administrator didn't want the great numbers he was about to lay out to get lost in the discussion over a half-cent tax.
For the second straight year, the municipal tax rate in the township has dropped and the introduction of the budget was unanimously approved by a 5-0 vote on Thursday night.
Despite the fact that 68 percent of taxes collected in Chatham go toward funding the school budget, Chatham Township has done a remarkable job in keeping its municipal tax rate low - so low that it is slightly lower than it was in 2005. The other 32 percent of taxes collected is split between county taxes and township taxes at 16 percent apiece.
In 2014, the municipal tax levy was 29 cents per $100 of assessed valuation and it was lowered to 27.8 cents in 2015. The 2016 rate is a penny lower at 26.8, lower than it was in 2005 at 26.9.
"The entire Township Committee should be proud of the fact that we are able to provide our residents a tax cut for the second year in a row, reflecting the lowest local purpose tax rate in more than 10 years," Mayor Curt Ritter, participating in the meeting by phone from Denver, Colo., said. "Few, if any, municipalities in New Jersey can tout this significant accomplishment. This budget further highlights our efforts to be fiscally conservative in running Chatham Township."
Chatham Township has managed to keep municipal taxes low by building up its surplus and using it to offset rising costs. In 2016, the township is using $3.1 million of its surplus and last year it used $2.8 million. The 2016 surplus Chatham Township has accumulated stands at $4,8 million.
The amount to be raised by taxes for municipal purposes in 2016 is $8,164,140.
"If you've owned your home since 2005 when new values went into effect, and you haven't added, and haven't made any significant renovations, if your assessment is the same as 2005, your local purpose tax is the same," Ciccarone said. "Your school tax is not the same, your county tax is probably not the same, but your local tax is definitely the same."
Ciccarone pointed out that in 1996, the surplus was $660,000 and the budget that year left just $20,000 of a budget surplus. Chatham Township has steadily built up its reserves to the current $4.8 million.