NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Each week leading to the November 5 election, the candidates running for New Providence Borough Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto New Providence.
The following answer is from Republican Borough Council Candidates Robert Muñoz and Michele Matsikoudis for Week 3.
Week 3 Questions: Residents are concerned about rising taxes. The tax bill is made up of numbers from the County, School and Township. The Township's portion of the tax bill is the smallest. Many costs are out of the council's control with the rising cost of services and employee benefits. However, tax payers want to know how you will control the budget while maintaining and improving infrastructure issues and services and preparing for the future. Please explain your plan.
For every property tax dollar you pay, New Providence Borough receives 19.79%, Union County receives 21.59%, and the Board of Education receives 57.1%. The New Providence Library gets 1.35% of your tax dollar and the New Providence Open Space fund gets .17%. From the Borough’s 19.79%, approximately 80% is already allocated for fixed costs like police, DPW, and borough employee salaries; employee benefits and medical insurance; and debt repayment. So of the 19.79 cents from your property tax dollar that the borough receives, only about 4 cents is left for discretionary spending. Those 4 cents per dollar we use to line, replace or repair sewer pipes; repave roads, fix sidewalks, make equipment purchases, and make infrastructure improvements.
To lower taxes, New Providence either has to cut spending or increase revenue. Fortunately for New Providence, the addition of Lantern Hill has meant an increase in property tax ratables, which in turn has meant an increase in property tax revenue. This year, New Providence was able to cover much of the increase in spend through the increase in property tax revenue. Our property tax increase of .58% is one of the lowest of our peer communities. This translates to roughly a $17.00 per household tax increase. Ever since the cap on property tax increases was set at 2%, New Providence has remained below that cap.
New Providence is just getting back to pre-recession levels in terms of total ratables. After the market crash of ’08-’09, the commercial ratables in New Providence and elsewhere took a major blow. This meant New Providence’s tax revenue decreased following the market crash. During that time and the several years following, the borough council had to make difficult decisions and reduce staff in all departments. Equipment purchases and infrastructure improvements had to be delayed. Cuts in services had to be made. It wasn’t until 2017 that the ratables in New Providence finally caught back up to their pre-recession level. Now staffing levels are getting back up to where they should be, equipment is being purchased, and infrastructure improvements are being made. New Providence remains prudent in how we budget and spend. Property tax revenues from Lantern Hill are expected to increase as they expand their footprint in New Providence. Taxpayers should see further relief as the ratables in New Providence increase.
However, other ways to increase revenue must also be explored. We must continue to explore all available state and federal grant opportunities. Between 2016 and 2018, New Providence received about $900,000.00 in Safe Routes to School grants. When the shared dispatch center was built, 1.6 million dollars in state and federal grants were used for equipment and technology purchases. New Providence just received a $40,000.00 grant from Union County’s Kids Recreation Trust Fund. We receive over $200,000.00 yearly from the state for road repaving projects.
Maintaining an aggressive stance against spending increases and going after grants are two ways to positively affect the borough's budget. We can't always rely on increasing ratables to cover our spend. As members of your borough council, Michele and Rob remain committed to being fiscally conservative so New Providence can continue to maintain its AAA credit rating. They will aggressively seek out any and all grants and will keep a lid on spending. Please remember to vote Matsikoudis and Muñoz on November 5, column B.