Touted by officials as the tightest budget in more than a decade, Middletown’s 2012 $63.5 million municipal spending plan was introduced at last night’s meeting, calling for no layoffs this year and a $43 annual hike on the average taxpayer’s bill.
With a tax levy of $47.6 million, the budget represents a 1.97 percent tax levy increase over last year’s $46.7 million, or an increase of $919,079, just under the state-mandated 2 percent cap. The average property value in the township is $380,000, or what the $43 annual municipal tax payment increase is based on. It translates into $3.57 a month.
“This budget is the result of a collaborative effort of all (township) department heads, administration, input from the committee and me,” Chief Financial Officer Nicola Trasente said as he presented the budget. “We really put a lot of effort into keeping costs down. This is the lowest (increase) we’ve seen in a long time — more than 10 years.”
Citing no increase in state aid, Trasente and other officials attributed the frugal spending plan to successful collective bargaining with unions, especially police, to lower benefits costs by raising employee contributions. They also credited township department , and staff reductions through attrition. Many who retired from staff positions were not replaced.
“In order to achieve the lowest tax levy increase in more than a decade, austere measures are being taken in all departments,” Mayor Tony Fiore said. “Measures include three years of steady staff reductions, significant Township insurance and benefit program changes, and restructuring the departments of Recreation and Public Works.”
“We’ve lost about 27 people in the past two years,” Trasente added.
Health care costs this year came in at an estimated $7.8 million, or roughly $400,000 less than last year, which will be collected through employee contributions that did not exist previously. “That cost would have been over $8 million, otherwise,” Trasente said.
The municipal budget accounts for 21 percent of the tax bill residents get in the mail. The Board of Education budget represents 62 percent of the bill, with the remainder represented by county taxes and elements such as the open space tax and the library costs.
Of the 21 percent in municipal costs, most goes to salaries and wages. Police salaries represent 53 percent of the tab, with Public Works and Engineering salaries accounting for 19 percent, library staff representing 8 percent and all other employees accounting for another 4 to 5 percent, Trasente said.
“Middletown continues to focus on providing core governmental functions at the most effective and efficient levels,” Fiore said. “We also continue to re-evaluate and re-examine all municipal programs and implement changes that generate cost savings where possible.”
For more information on the budget, click on the presentation attached.