A municipal budget that will increase local taxes by about $66 per average home was adopted at a brief Point Borough Council meeting on Tuesday night at
Point Borough Councilmember Christopher Leitner was the only no vote on the budget which is expected to increase municipal taxes by $66 on a home assessed at $300,000 if it is approved by Ocean County and the state. Councilmember John Wisniewski was absent.
The municipal tax bill on a home assessed at $300,000, which is the average Borough assessment for a home, is increasing from $1,146 to $1,212. The total municipal budget is decreasing from $18.4 million to $18.3 million.
The amount to be raised by local taxes is increasing from $12.5 million to nearly $13.2 million. The Borough's tax collection rate has increased from 95.50 percent to 96.74 percent.
The budget will increase the municipal tax rate by 2.22 cents, compared to 2.16 cents as called for in the budget when it was introduced on July 2.
Leitner said after the meeting that he voted no because he is concerned about the majority on council using about $1.2 million of a total of about $1.3 million in surplus. He said the problem with using nearly all of the surplus is that if the Borough generates less surplus than expected next year, it will likely mean a larger tax increase.
"If you come up short the following year, then you have to raise taxes more than you would have to otherwise," Leitner said.
He said he did not voice his reason for the no vote during the meeting because he knew it wouldn't change any votes.
"I've asked at prior meetings how much surplus is going to be generated next year and I never got an answer," Leitner said. "At the meeting where the budget was introduced, we saw some on council, like Toni DePaola and Bob Sabosik, start asking questions about the budget.
"But the time to ask questions was at budget workshop meetings and that's when some of those answers had been given," Leitner continued. "So what that tells me is they have little to no undertanding of the budget. And I wasn't comfortable voting for it."
DePaola and Sabosik had said at the July 2 meeting that they did understand the budget and felt like they had gotten sufficient answers to the last few questions they had.
Last year no surplus was applied to the budget, according to budget data distributed by Borough Adminisgtrator David Maffei.
There was no public comment on the budget before or after it was adopted and the meeting lasted barely 20 minutes.
There were only minor changes to the budget since it was
He said the state had advised the municipality to approve several amendments, which council voted for unanimously on Tuesday night, and the state also gave the Borough the green light to adopt budget.
The most significant change directed by the state is to take $82,000 for health benefits outside the state-mandated 2 percent spending cap.
Also, the state said the budget needs to have a separate line item for $8,000 for the few employees who are getting a payment in lieu of health benefits. Employees who do not get health benefits get $2,000 to $2,500 in lieu of the benefits, Maffei said. That's roughly a quarter of what the Borough would spend on their health benefits, he said.
Water and Sewer Budget
The amendments also include reducing the water and sewer budget by nearly $70,000 because the Borough cannot use a portion of its surplus to pay for water and sewer.
The amount of surplus anticipated as revenue is decreasing from $345,000 last year to $167,520 this year, according to budget data provided by Maffei.
Maffei said the Borough uses part of its surplus, in addition to water and sewer revenue, to pay water and sewer charges.
The total water and sewer budget is increasing from $6,475,421 by $353,141 to $6,611,141.
Regarding water and sewer charges, the Borough also added a surcharge this year of $17 per water unit and $17 per sewer unit per quarter, which ends at the end of this year, Maffei said.