MADISON, NJ – In its first, preliminary budget meeting on Jan. 30, Chief Financial Officer Robert Kalafut said the anticipated increase on property taxes would be 1.48 percent. For a house with a market value of $718,000, that translates to a $39 bump from the previous year.
“This is not the final budget,” Mayor Robert Conley emphasized. Additional meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 and 9 a.m. Saturday, March 1. The February meeting will cover Police, Fire, Department of Public Works and Engineering. The March meeting will focus on the Board of Health, Electric Utility, Water Utility and the Capital Budget.
“This is my first time in the process,” Finance Chairman Ben Wolkowitz said and thanked Borough Administrator Ray Codey, Assistant Administrator Jim Burnet and Kalafut for their help. “You extend your own personality,” he said, “and I’d say we’re between neutral and conservative.” He referred to the economic slowdown and residual pain. “We’re mindful of the Triple A rating that needs to be maintained.” Wolkowitz said as proposed, there would be no increase in water or electric utilities, no loss in services or layoffs. “We’re well staffed in the municipal government,” he said for the services offered.
“We are $1.236 million under the 2 percent tax levy cap allowed by the state and $3.205 million under the spending cap allowed by the state,” he said.
Kalufut said he expects to introduce the budget in March. He provided an overview, showing costs to taxpayers going to the schools at $6,959 or 61.1 percent; the municipality at $2,727 or 24.0 percent and the county at $1,694 or 14.9 percent. This comes to a total of $11,380 or 100.0 percent.
He said the budget reflects a net decrease of $80,000 in the Health Department contract. “We lost three towns and picked up one,” he said. The borough spent over $1 million from the electric utility for Hurricane Sandy, but 75 percent of that, or $750,000, may be recaptured from FEMA in 2013, thanks to the efforts of Councilman Robert Landrigan, he said. The electric surplus has allowed the borough to avoid declaring an emergency appropriation, which has been necessary in other communities.
The budget includes funds of $100,000 for electrical capital projects and $200,000 for water capital projects. It allocates $200,000 for water meter replacement, bringing the total reserved for the purpose to $600,000 by the end of 2013.
“It’s a good message to send to Standard and Poor,” Kalafut said of the budget proposal for building reserves and controlling expenses.