CHATHAM, NJ - For the fourth straight year, there will be no increase in the tax rate for residents in the Chatham Township Municipal Budget, introduced on Thursday night by administrator Thomas Ciccarone at the regular meeting of the Chatham Township Committee.
The municipal budget will be up for adoption on March 23.
The budget passed, 5-0, and, after two votes, the Open Space Tax was set at one-half cent, which is the same rate as last year. The final vote on the Open Space Tax was, 4-1, with committee member Mike Kelly dissenting.
The 2017 municipal budget calls for $8,255,055 to be raised by taxes at a rate of 26.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The tax rate has remained the same for four straight years and Ciccarone announced that township residents would be paying $4.75 less this year.
Most of the discussion about the budget was spent on the Open Space Tax, which was voted on referendum by Chatham Township residents to be two cents. But, each year, the township committee has the option of lowering the tax or leaving it at two cents.
Kelly advocated for two cents at the previous committee meeting and Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter introduced a one cent rate on Thursday, which he described as a "No harm, no foul" rate. Ritter said it would show that Chatham Township had "skin in the game" if it asked for state open space funding in the future.
Ritter's proposal was voted down, 3-2, with committee members John Maurer, Kevin Sullivan and Karen Swartz voting no. In general, the members voting no opposed collecting taxpayer funds when there is no immediate need. All said they were in favor open space purchases when the opportunity arises.
Sullivan had been the mayor when Chatham Township purchased the 162-acre open space now known as Giralda Farms Park.
According to Ciccarone, there is $120,000 in the Open Space fund at this time and that the half-cent tax generates $150,000 in revenue for that purpose. The township pays $130,000 in debt service out of those funds.
The township is now in negotiation to purchase a piece of open space for $1.8 million. Ciccarone urged that the township committee to consider the one cent Open Space Tax, which would cover the $90,000 down payment needed for the purchase.
Ciccarone declined to comment on the purchase because it is still in negotiation and has not been finalized.