MILLBURN, NJ – Four of five members of the Millburn Township Committee voted to approve the 2017 municipal budget at its most recent meeting. The Township’s Chief Financial Officer, Jason Gabloff, provided a summary of revenues, appropriations and highlighted key spending areas and expenses for Millburn Township tax dollars.
Gabloff explained that 79% of total revenues to operate the municipality derive from property taxes while the balance comes from miscellaneous revenues, anticipated surpluses and a small portion from delinquent taxes receipts. Appropriations, or expenses, represent largely fixed costs, driven primarily by non-discretionary items such as salaries and wages, various insurances and capital reserves.
For every tax dollar, Millburn Township taxpayers contribute 50 cents towards the three largest combined appropriations: insurance, public safety and public works. In line with Millburn’s historically conservative fiscal policies, only three cents per tax dollar goes to debt service.
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Rating agencies prescribe that debt to budget ratios should be no more than ten percent of a town’s budget, Gabloff commented. Millburn’s debt as a percentage of the budget is one of the lowest amongst area municipalities at three percent. South Orange, Maplewood, Livingston, Berkeley Heights and Ridgewood all exceed ten percent.
Committeewoman Dianne Eglow, who cast the only dissenting vote to approve the budget, expressed concerns about the debt appropriated to fund Complete Streets (Millburn’s pedestrian safety and traffic calming initiative) and how it would impact Millburn Township taxpayers. She specifically pointed out, as she has done in the past, that it was the previous administration that unanimously approved the project. Eglow ran on a platform critical of Complete Streets during her candidacy to the Township Committee last November.
“We never want debt to drive the tax rate," stated Gabloff, "the projections that we’ve done that go out 20 years that include this [Complete Streets] and other future projects….it’s debt neutral.” Gabloff continued, “As it stands now, none of this [Complete Streets] debt is impacting the operating budget or property taxes.”
Eglow continued to address Gabloff with her concerns over the Complete Streets debt and the sunk costs to date, positing that if the project were to stop today taxpayers could realize a reduction in property taxes and if not, taxpayers could see an increase in taxes. Gabloff clarified that Millburn taxpayers would not see an increase in taxes due to debt associated with Complete Streets. He went on to comment that the 20-year bond issued to finance the initiative will likely be paid off in ten years.
“We have the lowest debt of the surrounding communities. We have the second lowest tax rate of any surrounding community and the community with the lowest tax rates funding it with debt because they have three times more debt than we have.” Commented Committeeman Robert Tillotson to the Millburn Township CFO. “Are you happy with the budget process since you have been here?”
Gabloff stated that Tillotson’s statement is “a fair assessment” and is pleased with the Township’s budget process. Gabloff has been the Chief Financial Officer of Millburn Township for over 14 years.
Disclosure: In the interest of full disclosure, TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills editor Jonathan Sym is an elected member of the Essex County Republican Committee and represents the 13th Ward in Millburn Township.