ROXBURY, NJ – Most Roxbury homeowners will see no municipal tax increase this year and township officials are on track to make Roxbury debt-free by this time in 2018.
The owner of an average Roxbury house, one assessed at about $208,000, will pay about $2,190 for township services under the 2017 municipal budget adopted recently by the Roxbury Mayor and Council. The same homeowner will pay about $5,490 in taxes for Roxbury schools, an increase of about $166 over last year, based on the school district’s $77.9 million 2017 budget. Tax bills also include county government and open space taxes.
The municipal government’s $29.5 million spending plan calls for a municipal tax rate of $1.053 per $100 of assessed valuation. Roxbury Township Manager Christopher Raths and members of the Roxbury Township Council said they met their goal of keeping the town tax rate from increasing this year.
“From the perspective of the council, our objective was to hold taxes at the same rate, and we were successful at dong that, so there’s no tax increase,” said Roxbury Councilman Bob DeFillippo. “Even more than that, we are very close to becoming debt free.”
Township officials plan to eliminate all general obligation debt by 2018. There is currently about $1 million in such debt.
“General obligation debt is for debt paid out of property taxes,” explained Raths. “All other debt payments will be paid from either the water fund, the sewer fund or open space funds. The water and sewer funds are collected from user fees and open space is a special property tax.”
To Roxbury taxpayers, the benefit of the township becoming debt free is that town officials will be able to use, for other things, the money now being spent on principal and interest payments. Or, they could reduce municipal taxes.
“It’s simply a sign of financial security,” Raths said. “In 2018, we will pay off the last million dollars in general obligation debt. That $1 million is then available to the township without having to raise any taxes.”
While some economists argue that government debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Roxbury Mayor Mark Crowley is not in that camp. “I agree with being debt free and to pay as you go,” he said. “We have not diminished the level of service to the residents and we can do it without having debt. We are taking that money … and we are putting it into the roads. The residents, as you talk to them, that’s the number one topic that comes up.”
DeFillippo agreed. “I think what residents really want, and certainly what I’m focused on, is keeping the tax burden down,” he said. “That’s not to say they don’t care about road paving. We are accelerating our road paving. We’ve increased the road paving we will do in this budget and we're on a schedule. I think it is a sensible plan and one that balances our ability to keep taxes flat but also provide not just road paving but also police protection” and other town services.