NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The proposed budget introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting includes no increase in municipal taxes in an attempt to help residents – many of whom lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The average property owner, defined as an owner of a property assessed at $270,900 would pay $2,838 in taxes, according to a press release from Mayor Jim Cahill’s office.
“Look, a lot of folks are struggling,” Cahill said. “People have lost their jobs, lost hours of employment, lost income from a lot of different sources. And while that hasn’t happened to everybody, it’s happened to enough people. So, I wish we could do more. Nevertheless, that is holding the line on taxes and keeping them flat allows us to maintain all the essential programs we need to provide for the safety and protection of our residents. “
To keep the taxes flat, Cahill said that 225 hourly and seasonal positions would be furloughed, as would 46 salaried nonessential positions.
He said the city has suspended high-demand but nonessential services and inner-city transportation. As Cahill pointed out, during Gov. Phil Murphy’s Stat At Home executive order, residents aren’t utilizing that service.
The city will also institute a freeze on all hiring, including 30 essential personnel in the police, fire and public works departments as well as the water utility.
There will also be a freeze on all managers’ salaries.
Despite the zero increase in taxes, several capital improvement projects have been planned, including pedestrian and road safety upgrades to Livingston, Nichol and Joyce Kilmer avenues, and Handy Street.
Several traffic signal improvements as well as citywide road repaving will continue.
A new park is planned for the site of the former Wolfson Parking Garage on Neilson Street, and War Memorial Park is scheduled for a makeover. The city is also planning a renovation of the Lincoln Gardens Greenway.
The budget also accounts for several equipment, technology and safety improvements for the police and fire departments.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic hurt revenues in areas such as tourism, the proposed budget has been supplemented by about $650,000 in increased revenue. Also, citywide development has resulted in a $31.4 million increase in the total assessed valuation of taxable property in New Brunswick.
“This is my 30th budget that I’ve submitted to the city council for its consideration,” Cahill said. “And we’ve done it in great times and we’ve done it in not-so-great times. The great recession, the late 2000 aughts was a very difficult time. It was the largest recession since the Great Depression of 1929. There were other times when cash was really tight, etc. But I have to say this one was the most difficult.
“Thank goodness that we have a great team of people in the administration, finance office, our city administration, all of our department heads and division heads and candidly all of our employees who gave information, sacrificed an awful lot to make sure we were doing whatever we can do to continue to serve the public.”
A public hearing on the budget, which has a total expenditure of $94.4 million with a levy of about $35.9 million, is scheduled to be held on July 15.