MONTGOMERY: Township budget approved that includes small tax hike

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By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
MONTGOMERY — Township residents apparently are satisfied with the proposed $27.6 million municipal budget, because only one resident turned out for the public hearing and had no comment to make last week.
Township Committee unanimously approved the proposed 2016 municipal budget, which carries a $97 property tax increase for the average property owner. The municipal property tax rate will increase from 35 cents per $100 of assessed value to 37 cents.
Township Administrator Donato Nieman thanked Township Committee and the staff “for all the hard work” they put into preparing the 2016 municipal budget at the committee’s June 2 meeting.
“I really appreciate it,” Mr. Nieman said.
Mayor Patricia Graham echoed Mr. Nieman’s comments and thanked Mr. Nieman and the staff — as well as Committeeman Mark Conforti — for helping to put the spending plan together.
Much of the $774,000 increase in the 2016 budget — from $26.8 million to $27.6 million — is attributable to mandatory increases in pension and health care insurance costs, plus statutory and contractual salary increases and additional investments in the Police Department.
The budget does not call for any reductions in core services. Money will be earmarked for improvements to the Department of Public Works and the Recreation Department to make improvements in the parks and playgrounds.
Breaking down the spending categories, health and public safety account for 22 percent of the budget. The Construction, Engineering and Planning departments, and the Department of Public Works, make up 16 percent of spending. Pensions and Social Security, plus insurance and benefits, total 22 percent of spending.
On the revenue side, property taxes make up 51 percent of revenue. The budget calls for $14 million to be raised in property taxes to support the spending plan.
Other sources of revenue include $4.7 million in surplus funds; $752,125 in fees and permits; and $204,000 in Municipal Court fine. State aid is flat at $1.3 million.
It was pointed out that the municipal property tax makes up 12 percent of a property owner’s overall tax bill. The school district tax accounts for 70 percent of the tax bill and the Somerset County tax is 17 percent. The municipal open space tax is 1 percent of the total tax bill.
While the 2-percent cap on the municipal property tax would allow the township to raise property taxes by a maximum of $304, township officials have chosen to craft a budget to minimize the tax rate increase to $97.