ROXBURY, NJ – Taxes paid to the township by the average Roxbury homeowner would increase by about $32 per year under a municipal budget presented by township Manager John Shepherd.

The proposed 1.47 percent increase in the budget, if approved by the Roxbury Mayor and Council, would represent the first township tax increase since 2019. In a statement attached to the proposed spending plan, Shepherd pointed to COVID-19.

“In general, the financial position of Roxbury Township continues to be strong; however, because of COVID-19, 2020 was a difficult year,” he wrote.

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The township did not raise municipal taxes last year when the 2020 budget was adopted as the pandemic began. Shepherd said he is not seeing significant economic improvement happening this year.

“We have projected 2021 to also be a challenging year as some revenues will continue to trend lower which impacts the operating budget,” the manager said. “The proposed 2021 operating budget for the Current Fund has only been increased by $117,980 when compared to 2020 (a 0.39% increase).”

The Mayor and Council are in the process of reviewing the proposed $29 million budget. A vote on the spending plan is expected to take place next month.

Virus Kills Anticipated Revenue 

In his memo, Shepherd highlighted several areas where significant revenue losses took place in 2020 and are expected to continue this year.

For example, the 2020 budget anticipated $314,279 in municipal court revenues, but COVID-related closure of the court left the township with only $165,911 in court revenue. Shepherd’s new budget anticipates $160,000 in court revenue this year.

Additionally, the town expected $270,000 in investment interest in 2020 but received only $55,971.

Shepherd said those anticipated revenue losses, combined with another $60,000 in unrealized hotel/motel taxes, add up to “a difference of $424,279 from budget year 2020 to 2021.”

While revenue decreases are expected to continue this year, some expenses are increasing, according to Shepherd. The most impactful is a new contract between the township and Blue Diamond Disposal of Mount Arlington for trash and recycling pickup.

“As previously discussed, the new contract has an increase of approximately 20% in the first year (2021) of the agreement,” Shepherd wrote. “After the first year, this contract increases by 3% per year.”

Budget documents show the township expects to pay Blue Diamond about $2.38 million in 2021, about $320,000 more than it did in 2020.

Because of the revenue reductions, “the proposed 2021 operating budget has been prepared with great care to maintain (and reduce if possible) any line items in order to provide for the lowest tax increase as possible,” wrote the manager.

He noted that the proposed 2021 capital budget has been reduced by $635,391 when compared to 2020.

Historically, the municipal levy represents only about a quarter of the annual tax bill. The school tax encompasses about 65 percent of the tax bill and the county, township library, county open space and township open space funds make up for the remainder.

The new Roxbury school budget has not yet been introduced.

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