FLEMINGTON, NJ - Flemington’s 2020 budget was approved Tuesday with one no vote cast by Councilman Michael Harris.
The impact on homeowners remains the same, however according to Mayor Betsy Driver some reductions were made since the budget was originally introduced in April.
“The COVID stuff came up and it was clear we probably needed to make changes,” she said.
The changes she mentioned were eliminating the option for an additional police officer, eliminating supervisor-initiated promotions and the removal of certain capital items.
While some towns have been hit hard with losses in revenues from hotel taxes and parking authority fees, Flemington’s biggest losses have come from a lack of court fees.
“People aren’t driving as much, so they’re not getting tickets as much,” said Driver.
The mayor is still concerned about receiving tax payments due to the town on Aug. 1 and she anticipates a “bump up” in tax appeals from commercial properties. However, unlike a lot of other towns, Flemington didn’t build up the budget in order to amass a surplus.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said. “I think we need to keep the expenses as low as possible.”
Instead, the borough will look to bonding to cover any possible shortfalls, and it is pursuing state and federal aid.
To date, there haven’t been any layoffs, but an agreement was reached with the unions to have members substitute overtime pay for compensatory time in the future. In addition, the mayor has asked that municipal employees’ vacations be moved as far forward as possible so that jobs don’t need to be covered with overtime.
“All these little ways to try to keep expenses down for our borough taxpayers are being done,” Driver said.
Driver mentioned that while she and CFO William Hance looked for additional cuts before the budget was approved, she also sent an email to all council members for any ideas they had about possible cuts.
“I heard from exactly no one,” Driver said.
That’s when Harris spoke up. He said there were discussions during the budget planning meetings about the data collected last year regarding shared services.
“To say that there were no suggestions is not accurate,” he said.
“I would encourage you to find a dance partner,” Driver said, “because without that, you’re just spitting into the wind.”
The mayor further explained that with an adjacent town interested in entering into shared services agreement, the discussion is over before it even begins.
The municipal tax rate went from .964 to.981 an increase of 1.77 percent. Driver attributed the increase to contractual obligations, and a rise in pension fund, health care costs “and the same stuff that goes up every year in our own household budgets.”
Flemington property values rose with the average home price going from $268,762 in 2019 to $272,413. In terms of municipal taxes, the homeowner of an average valued home will see an increase of $80.41, bringing the municipal portion of their property taxes from $2,590.87 to $2,671.28.
There were no members of the public that commented on the budget.
Harris for the third year in a row, also voted no to the ordinance establishing a cap bank, which establishes a fund for emergencies.