NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The 2018 borough budget, featuring less than two percent tax increase, was presented at the Monday, April 23 meeting. Councilman Michael Gennaro and Councilwoman Nadine Geoffroy provided the power point presentation.
The municipal portion of the total tax bill represents only 21.27 percent, including the local open space and library tax. County taxes have surpassed municipal taxes and they now stand at 22.51 percent, including the county open space tax. The school taxes represent the largest portion of the total tax bill at 56.22 percent.
Gennaro noted that it is not cheap living in New Providence. The municipal tax increase of 1.91 percent translates into $55 for the average borough home assessed at $282,000. Gennaro pointed out that the market value is approximately double the assessed value of a house. The municipal portion of the 2018 tax bill will be $2,929.00 for the average home compared to $2,874.00 last year.
Between 1999 and 2018 the average annual tax increase has been $65 for the average borough home assessed at $282,000. In 1999 the municipal portion of the tax bill for the average house was $1,692.00 compared to $2,929.00 in 2018.
The average annual county tax increase during this 19-year period has been $90 for the average home. However, Gennaro noted that this year the county has done better as the tax increase of 1.75 percent will add $52 to the total tax bill for an average home. During that same period school taxes have risen from $5,132.00 in 1999 to $7,742.00 in 2018. This represents an average annual increase of $137.00. Compared to last year the school tax increase will be less than two percent or $143 this year.
For the average home the total tax bill, including municipal, county and school taxes, has gone up from $6,712.00 in 1999 to $13,689.00 this year. This represents an average annual tax increase of $367.00. In 2017 the homeowner of an average home assessed at $282,000 paid $13,440.00 in property taxes. This year the total tax bill will feature a 1.88 percent increase or $249.00 with the total tax bill of $13,689.00.
Geoffroy explained that the borough’s objective is to maintain essential municipal services while seeking out efficiencies to contain operating costs and overhead. The borough also intends to keep municipal tax increases affordable and predictable within the five-year planning cycle. Additionally, the borough is actively seeking available grants to fund both operations and capital improvement projects. Another objective is to “assure adequate funding levels of reserve accounts for tax appeal, snow removal and insurance.” Gennaro noted that the reserves are the main reason for the borough’s triple A credit rating.
Gennaro pointed out the importance of shared services as a way to save money. The borough will continue its shared service agreement with Summit for wastewater services. This service adds $150,000 annually to the borough’s coffers. He noted that the service also benefits Summit as it receives better service than before. The borough is also sharing its court system with Berkeley Heights, and as of late last year with Summit. Berkeley Heights pays $92,000 and Summit $205,000 to New Providence to cover the annual court cost of $348,000. Gennaro also touted the benefits of the Shared Dispatch Center that services New Providence, Summit and Millburn.
The borough has secured a $462,000 grant for Safe Routes to Schools and a $310,000 Department of Transportation (DOT) grant for the Livingston Avenue paving project. The borough estimates that the new police escort fees add $45,000 to the budget.
Gennaro explained that the borough only controls approximately 30 percent of the budget appropriations as many cost items are regulated by the state, such as pension, health insurance and employee benefits, which increased 5.79 percent compared to last year. Public safety is the largest cost item featuring a 4.71 percent increase. He pointed out that the borough decided to increase the budget slightly to cover a portion of the cost for added security at the borough schools. On the other hand, the borough will be receiving grants totaling $549,729.00 compared to only $57,431.00 last year.
Gennaro also provided a comparison of municipal taxes with the nearby Union County municipalities. Generally, New Providence taxes are on the lower end of the list. Only Scotch Plains and Berkeley Heights have lower municipal taxes. However, both towns charge for garbage pick-up and Scotch Plains also charges a sewer fee. In New Providence both garbage collection and sewer service are included in the taxes.
The upcoming investments in the borough’s infrastructure and services include resurfacing tennis courts, road paving projects as well as sidewalk repairs and installations of missing links of sidewalks. The borough is also planning to replace some of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and emergency vehicles. Funding for a School Resource Officer and upgrades on emergency services radio equipment are also part of the budget. Furthermore, the borough will acquire additional video surveillance equipment. The borough will also invest in energy efficiency upgrades and HVAC upgrades both in the Municipal Center and the library.
“This town has done an awful lot to improve services with low tax increases,” Gennaro said. The “comfortable” budget provides a wide range of services to residents. “We all feel the pain of paying taxes,” he added.