CHATHAM, NJ - The Borough of Chatham Council unanimously introduced a $15.2 million 2020 municipal budget, which reflects a 2.99 percent increase in taxes at its virtual meeting held Monday night.

According to Chatham Borough Mayor Thaddeus Kobylarz, the rise in taxes represents a "fairly modest" increase compared to surrounding towns. The Coronavirus pandemic has reduced revenues to Chatham Borough, such as train station daily parking and other fees collected through the courts.

"It is a move we feel we need to do," Kobylarz said. "Without an additional one percent tax increase (over 2%), we'd be looking at a higher increase next year. The pandemic impacts every level of government in every state. There is no one who is immune to the financial impact of this."

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Chatham Borough's Interim Chief Financial Officer Dave Hollberg said that the current increase is avoiding what could be a six, seven or eight percent increase in taxes.

"Knowing what we know now that certain revenues are going to be decreased as a result of this pandemic, we should expect that there will be a need to raise taxes fairly significantly," Hollberg said. "By that I mean, perhaps, two to three times what we would normally be considering. It's easy to kind of project that there might be a six, seven or eight percent increase in the coming years if we were not to take some defensive budgetary action now."

Mayor Kobylarz and CFO Dave Hollberg discuss the need for the budget increase in video belo

At the prompting of Mayor Kobylarz, Hollberg gave an example of how a reduction in a single revenue stream can affect the following year's budget. Since municipalities are not allowed to anticipate revenue above what it receives the previous year, Hollberg explained in the video below how that will lead to higher taxes.

The 2020 borough budget represents an increase of $459,000 over 2019, but a DOT grant of $130,000 helped reduce the increase to $310,772 for a tax levy of $9.2 million.

Council president Jocelyn Mathiasen pointed out that it was not a "massive" tax increase, noting that the increase for the average homeowner in the borough would be $7.25 per month or $86.92 for the year.

The 2020 budget will be published on May 14 and be available to taxpayers to view in detail on the borough website. The public hearing on the budget will be held May 26, but the council won't vote to adopt the budget until June 8.

"That will give the public greater time to consider the impact and a meaningful opportunity to comment on it," Kobylarz said.

In his Coronavirus update, Mayor Kobylarz related news from Gov. Phil Murphy's conference call and, despite an optimistic projection by Murphy, he related that a senior aide to the governor was not promising any relief from the "lockdown" until the end of May (see the video below).

In other business, the borough council unanimously adopted two related ordinances that will affect parking on Parrott Mill Road. The first ordinance establishes a restricted "handicapped" parking space near the doctors' office on Parrott Mill Road.

The second ordinance will amend regulations to allow for parking on the east side of Parrott Mill while prohibiting parking on the west side. Currently, parking is allowed on the west side.