Middletown Municipal Budget Introduced; Mayor Touts Frugality
Township introduced budget with hike in taxpayer cost, $4 million in spending cuts; conforms with 2 percent Cap Levy Law
With respect to the introduced Middletown Township 2011 municipal budget, spending is down and taxes are up. It will cost the average taxpayer an extra $60 a year, or $5 a month, based on a new mean township property value of $380,000. Last year, the average was $435,000.
Per $100 of assessed property value, if approved, this municipal budget will cost taxpayers about an extra eight cents on the rate this year, or a total rate of 47.02 cents per $100, up from 39.8 cents last year.
Officially introduced at last night's regular Township Committee meeting, the $61 million spending plan, with a municipal tax levy of $46.7 million, is $3.87 million (or 5.9 percent) less than the 2010 municipal budget, Mayor Anthony Fiore pointed out in a released statement before the meeting.
Meeting attendants were all supplied with an outline of the budget and where the major costs and cut coups fall.
The budget, as introduced, still calls for lopping off 26 township jobs, including 10 police officers and the demotion of four within the department, Middletown Chief Financial Officer Nick Trasente said.
Fiore added that he still holds out hope for successful collective bargaining with unions over ever-rising, contract-mandated health benefits costs so that more jobs can end up being saved.
"Health care costs can be staggering," he said. "They're approaching 15 percent of the total budget. We really need to do some things about these rising costs."
According to the introduced budget, the township will be spending $8 million in health care costs. In addition, identified as "cost drivers" were: workers compensation insurance, at $1.3 million; deferred charges, at $580,000; pension increases, at $566,000; and snow storm costs, at $550,000.
Trasente also pointed out that of the $46.7 million to be raised by taxes, the township's $3.7 million public library tax will be represented as a separate tax on the bills that you will see. "It's not a separate budget. It's still part of our budget," Trasente said. "It's a formula-driven amount (dictated per state statute), but it will now just be shown separate tax."
“Middletown’s proposed municipal budget is very austere and in full conformance with the new 2 percent cap levy law, despite the state legislature’s continued failure to enact the Governor’s tool kit reforms that would empower the township to make further cuts,” said Fiore in a released statement before the meeting. “We are hopeful to continue to rein in spending through ongoing negotiations with the Township’s collective bargaining units with a focus on decreasing the Township’s health care costs.”
In line with cost savings, the mayor also pointed to present and future township shared services initiatives. The township is currently looking into a solar energy shared service program in conjunction with a few entitites, including the schools. Board of Education members have mentioned that they have a shared services committee working with the township on savings in various areas.
Fiore and Trasente also pointed to the strained $600,000 surplus, down from $4 million last year. They blamed an inordinate amount of tax appeals for eating up a good portion of that money. "Most of that [decline in surplus figure] had to do with about $5 million in tax appeals we had to face," Trasente said. "It's uncontrollable."
Fiore also addressed critics of township spending, who did not speak at the meeting, saying, "I know some of you expected a huge loophole with respect to the governor's cap on spending. That just did not happen."
Listed below are highlights of the budget released by the mayor before the meeting.
Proposed budget data and facts:
- The proposed 2011 municipal budget is $61,114,285 compared to the adopted 2010 budget that was $64,979,576.
- The proposed budget represents an actual decrease in spending of $3,865,291 (5.9 percent) from the 2010 budget.
- The largest cost drivers offsetting the Township’s $3.87 million in budget cuts are tax appeal refunds, state-mandated pension contribution increases of 22 percent, and costs associated with deferred charges due to numerous retirements last year.
- The proposed 2011 budget anticipates an increase in the total tax levy of $1,357,855 which complies with the new 2 percent cap levy law and will cost the average Middletown homeowner approximately $5 per month.
- The municipal budget makes up only approximately 22 percent of the average property tax bill, the remaining portion relates to the school and county tax levies.