DENVILLE, NJ -- The Denville Township Council unanimously adopted the 2021 municipal budget during its April 6 meeting.
This year, the total budget amount is $23,374,812.64, with a municipal tax rate of $0.4455. The total budget amount in 2020 was $23,114,429.82, with a municipal tax rate of $0.4413.
The average township home in Denville is now assessed at $408,000, with a homeowner paying $1,817.64 in municipal taxes. Last year, the house assessment was at $406,000, with the homeowner paying $1791.68 in municipal taxes.
For every $100,000 in assessed value, a property owner will be paying $445.50 in 2021 for the municipal portion of their property taxes. In 2020, they would have paid $441.30. For every $300,000 in assessed value, a township property owner will be paying 1,336.50 in 2021 for the municipal portion of their property taxes. In 2020, they would have paid $1,323.90.
“I am pleased to recommend the adoption of the 2021 municipal budget as presented before you this evening,” said Mayor Thomas Andes.
“The 2021 budget is a true success story of how our financial discipline placed us in an exceptional position to weather a financial crisis, such as the pandemic during this past year, without having to cut staff or services we provide to the public. This was a collaborative effort, and I extend my sincere gratitude to the township council for their hard work, including additional evening and weekend meetings that were necessary in finalizing the 2021 budget.”
“I would also like to the thank Township Administrator Steven Ward, Chief Finance Officer Michael Guarino, our auditor Ray Sarinilli, all the department heads, supervisors and staff who were involved in the budget’s thoughtful preparation. It was a team effort. I would like to take a moment to extend a special thanks to Michael Guarino, who used his exceptional municipal finance knowledge to guide us through Denville’s 10th budget with him as the CFO. Mike will be retiring later this year and undoubtedly is leaving the municipality in a better financial condition than he found it.”
In his address on the budget. Andes mentioned a few highlights of the 2021 budget. This included that despite the pandemic, on December 31, 2020, the district ended the year with its sixth consecutive year of a year-end fund balance increase. This enabled the township to anticipate some additional fund balance in the 2021 budget to make up for some lost revenue attributable to the pandemic and ultimately reduce the tax impact to local property owners.
The 2021 budget was also assisted by the highest ever tax collection rate, which exceeded 99 percent, said Andes.
Andes said that now into its fifth year with a major tax appeal from the largest ratable in its community, the township now has a reserve for tax appeals at $2.4 million. This reserve will ensure no long-term adverse budgetary impact for the township in the event of an unfavorable court ruling.
It was also mentioned that Saint Clare’s Hospital's transitioning into a for-profit hospital might have been a windfall for the schools, but it turned out to be a “losing proposition” for the township, Andes said.
“In the event of an unfavorable settlement, the township is responsible for full reimbursement, retroactively for the full amount for the towns, county, local school and regional high school,” said Andes.
“So, despite the township only receiving roughly 18 percent of the tax revenues, we are responsible to pay back 100 percent of tax appeals judgments/settlements. Therefore, the hospital has actually cost the township’s budget more than it has brought in on the municipal portion of taxes. The township has set aside $2.4 million to settle tax appeals, while the township’s portion of taxes collected over the five years will be $1.7 million.”
The 2021 budget further includes $831,675 in cash payments toward our capital projects, which represents 37 percent of the township’s total capital budget, five percent more than the requirement.
“Only roads paving and certain large vehicle purchases required the issuance of any debt,” said Andes.
“Furthermore, we continue our pay down of existing bond anticipation notes above the minimum required levels. This continues our big move towards our ultimate goal of reducing our overall reliance on debt and going towards more of a ‘pay as you go’ means of capital purchases in the coming years.”
Three of the highlights from the 2021 capital budget include $863,500 for road resurfacing this year plus and $100,000 to resurface the Upper Bloomfield Avenue Parking Lot, funding set aside to design a new turf field for Veteran’s Field (expected to go out to bid in 2022), and a new ambulance for volunteers of the fire department and first-aid members.
Andes also said that in 2017, the township converted its bond anticipation notes into bonds and as part of the rating process achieved an Aa1 rating from Moody’s, the second highest rating they grant.
“We will be selling bonds later this year and will go through another rating process,” said Mayor Andes.
“As our financial position has improved during the past four years, I anticipate we will be able to maintain our Aa1 rating, but believe we have a shot to be among the elite municipalities in the country with a AAA rating. Denville continually receives lower interest than its Aa1 rating on debt due to our financial position.”
Following the budget highlights, Andes recognized the many challenges Denville has faced relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.
“In December 2020, we received a preliminary order of compliance and repose from Superior Court Judge Gaus in our nearly five-year affordable housing court action,” said Andes.
“In the end, we’ve spent nearly $500,000 in legal and other professional fees fighting off developers and the Fair Share Housing Center. In the end, this funding was worthwhile as we settled on an obligation of only a fraction of what our adversary initially sought. However, our legal team and planner have much to do to implement the plan before our compliance hearing, which will be held in Superior Court in May 2021, and therefore certain professional fees remain elevated in the 2021 budget.”
Denville has also seen a $153,900 revenue shortfall relating to COVID-19 which had a slight impact on the municipal budget, which the township was able to absorb due to many years of good, conservative financial practices.
Furthermore, the tax rate impact for the average assessed property owner in Denville is at $27.55, which, according to Mayor Andes, continues a consistent trend of stable property taxes for the municipal portion of the taxes.
“In summary, the 2021 budget puts us in a great position heading into the future by continuing our core conservative budgeting principals while still efficiently providing top quality municipal services to our residents and business owners,” said Andes.
“Again, I appreciate everyone’s hard work and dedication on preparing and ultimately molding the 2021 budget. I strongly support the budget and encourage its adoption. Thank you.”
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