Thursday, March 12, 2015

2015 Municipal Budget

I was traveling on business last week when the Town Council introduced Denville's Municipal Budget so I wanted to post my views on the budget.


- About 2/3rds of your property taxes go to our schools (Regional H.S. and Denville)
- The Municipal Budget portion is under 20% of your overall taxes
- The Township is still responsible to collect all the taxes and pay the Schools & County after the collection.  This can obviously be a challenge because whether the taxes are collected or not, the Township still has to pay the School & County portion.  Often it has to front the money.
- There are many predetermined items in the budget due to State and Federal regulations, existing Union Contracts, etc..


First I support the municipal budget that was introduced.  I continually push for lower taxes and more efficient government.  We are improving greatly.   However, we will be faced with a small tax increase again this year.  It is just under a 2% increase, which is about 30 something dollars to the average Denville household.  However, I believe this is a responsible budget especially looking ahead at future years.  As well, the main reason for the slight increase is something beyond a Councilperson's control.  We had a huge tax appeal by one of our biggest ratables over the last two years.  It is fundamental that we pass a budget or else we can not do anything in town.  The governing body has to pass a budget.  I am very against when a Council member votes against a budget, unless they have shown very clearly how they would change the budget.


Franciscan Oaks, files an enormous tax appeal of several million dollars that was settled a short time ago with Denville's tax assessor.  Most townships could be put out of business from this tax appeal or would be forced to have an enormous tax increase.  However, credit to the Townships Administrator, Director of Finance and our Township Auditors,   we were able to quell that huge storm from conservative fiscal management over the last few years.  That appeal will be paid off this year.  If the appeal didn't happen, Denville residents would have seen a significant tax decrase of nearly $20 on the average household.


When looking back over the years I have been on the Council, We have had the slightest tax increases in Denville's history, short of some years that there has been no tax increase.  However, nearly every time there was no increase in the municipal budget, the township was hit with a very large tax increase the following year. Generally I am weary of budgets that have no increase whatsoever during a time where so many other costs are going up.  This historically has appeared to be politically motivated in years past from my perspective.  There would be a no tax increase during an election year but then the following year the budget would be in horrible shape and require a huge tax increase.


Many of the other costs of the municipal budget are difficult costs to control such as negotiated union employee contracts, benefits and health care (which is greatly rising everywhere).  Additionally , we have managed to maintain Denville services very efficiently over the last few years without interrupting quality.


A budget also must be looked at over several years.  While we had a small increase this year, there are signs that next year can be a very positive year in terms of Denville's budget.  I really am hopeful for potentially a budget next year that barely has an increase.  The reason why I think this is possible is because it is likely that Saint Clare's hospital will go private and pay taxes and we will most likely have a large new ratable with the residential area in development by the train station.

The Budget is now introduced and will be open for public comment at the April 7th, 2015 meeting 7:30pm at Town Hall. The budget is available here.