By JACQUELINE DURETT
SAYREVILLE — Taxpayers will see an average increase of $53.46 to the municipal portion of their tax bill under the borough’s proposed 2017 budget, which was introduced last week.
The $57 million budget is up from $56.7 million last year. The tax increase is a 3.9 cents per $100 of assessed value on the average assessed home of $144,500.
There was little discussion of the introduced budget at the March 13 council meeting, but after the meeting, Councilwoman Mary Novak stressed that the tax increase was not due to borough spending.
“Taxes will be raising but primarily due to a reduction in revenue rather than an increase in spending,” she said, pointing out that the spending increase was just $229,000.
“Overall, I think that the budget we have introduced is a sensible one, which focused on infrastructure improvements,” Councilman Steven Grillo said after the meeting. “While there were disagreements on a few items as is expected when working on a budget, I am very happy with the final product.”
Infrastructure improvements include road drainage and paving, park and sewer improvements and security cameras and alarms for water tanks, he said.
“I also secured approval from the council to have the new borough architect perform an audit of the four firehouses and develop a five-year capital plan to improve the facilities while also having a sound, long-term financial plan,” he added.
Novak said she is proud that the borough has not had to reduce any services “as many towns have had to do.”
“Some of the reasons we are able to accomplish this is because of the hard work of the department heads and employees. We also are probably the only town in Middlesex County that still has volunteer fire and EMS 24/7. Sayreville is truly blessed,” she said.
“I am happy with the work Councilwoman Novak has done with the budget so far,” Council President Daniel Buchanan said after the meeting. “We have introduced the budget; however, that is not the final approval. There is still work to be done, and we look forward to reducing the budget further.”
One borough entity receiving a requested increase in funding under the introduced budget is the library, which asked for an additional $150,000 for 2017. Library Director Susan Kaplan gave a presentation about her request at the Feb. 22 Budget Committee meeting. She said the library used to receive more funding in the past when property values were higher, but now both the population has grown and property values are not back to where they were before the market crash from almost a decade ago.
“At this point, in my opinion, we are cut to the bone where we can get by and not affect services to the public,” she told the Budget Committee. She said if she made cuts in one area, they would likely impact other areas.
“If you cut staff, we cut programming; if you cut collections, we cut staff,” she said. “It’s all interconnected at this point.”
She said another possibility is cutting operational hours.
However, the library will be receiving almost all the funding it requested. In all, $93,000 will come from general funds and an additional $25,000 has been allocated for salaries. The library also will receive an additional $17,000 for security once it selects a vendor.
Also, apart from Kaplan’s request are funds allocated for a new roof ($550,000) and renovations ($130,000), Grillo said.
The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 11.