SPARTA, NJ - Sparta Township Council had a public hearing of the 2014 Municipal Budget on Tuesday, April 8.  Township Chief Financial Officer Sam Rome walked the council member through his presentation of the proposed $24,937,837 budget. 

The proposal includes an total increase of $427,753, representing  a 1.75 percent increase to the tax levy. New Township Manager William Close pointed out that, "for every dollar of taxes collected by the municipality, 18 cents goes to running  the township." The county gets 17.4 cents and 63 cents supports the public school district.

This year the average home in Sparta is assessed at $293,400, a decrease of $2500 from 2013.  Rome explained the decrease is primarily from 330 tax appeals that reduced the overall taxable value of the township by $20 million. The appeals were on a mix of residential and commercial properties. This represents approximately $480,000 in lost revenue.  

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The impact of the municipal  tax increase on the average home is $41.20 over last year. Estimates of the impact of proposed county and school budgets are $33.57 and $131.42 more than 2013, respectively. The total estimated tax increase comes to  $199.46 more this year for the average assessed home or a total tax bill of $11,282.99.   

Rome included a comparison of the 2013 tax rates in Sussex County. Sparta ranks 15th out of all 24 municipalities and third-lowest, behind Vernon and Hardyston, for municipalities with police departments. 

The budget revenue categories  showing the greatest change are:

  • Receipts from Delinquent Taxes decreasing by 16.13 percent or $250,000
  • Surplus increasing 10.87 percent or  $250,000
  • Local Revenues- fees, permits, courts and interest increasing  8.12 percent increase or $144,627
  • Public and Private Revenue offset decreasing by 13.59 percent or $14,850 due to a grant not renewed.
  • Amount to be raised by taxes increasing $347,475 or 2.18 percent.

On the expenditure side of the budget the categories with the largest change from last year are:

  • Municipal Debt Service decreasing by 9.71 percent or-$203,393
  • Salaries and Wages increasing by just over five percent or $430,653
  • Other expenses-Insurances, supplies, gas, maintenance increasing by 4.84 percent or $291,016

Rome also discussed the use of surplus in funding the budget.  Municipalities are able to maintain a reserve for uncollected taxes.  An improved tax collection rate, along with other factors, have allowed Sparta to replenish the reserve budget, using some to offset necessary levy increases. The budget years 2007 through 2010 had zero or negative surplus to be used to fund the budget.

Close said, "It is an excellent budget."  He explained it is the product of good work that keeps costs down and yet maintains the level of service Sparta residents have come to expect.  Council members approved the budget with a four to zero vote. John Schon was not present.