Allentown council members hear details of 2021 municipal budget

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ALLENTOWN – The members of the Allentown Borough Council may vote to introduce the 2021 municipal budget during their meeting on March 2.

The March 2 meeting will be conducted in a virtual manner during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

During the Feb. 16 meeting of the mayor and council, Chief Financial Officer June Madden reviewed the 2021 budget for municipal officials and members of the public who joined the meeting via Zoom.

Madden said Allentown’s appropriations for 2021 are expected to total $3.12 million. Residential and commercial property owners in the borough will support municipal operations through the payment of $1.68 million in a local tax levy.

From 2020 to 2021, appropriations are up by $140,000 and the tax levy is up by $100,000.

Madden said when budget discussions began several months ago, officials were looking at an increase in the municipal tax rate of 13.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

That initial projected increase has been reduced to an anticipated increase of 5.21 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Madden said property owners will see an increase in the amount of municipal taxes they pay.

In discussing the spending plan, Madden said she and the members of the finance committee “looked at the budget requests from (various) committees and determined where they could be (funded) for 2021.”

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill. Allentown property owners also pay Upper Freehold Regional School District taxes and Monmouth County taxes.

The amount an individual pays in property taxes is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity (i.e., municipality, school district and county).

Allentown’s municipal tax levy did not increase from 2019 to 2020, remaining steady at $1.58 million. In those years, the municipal tax rate held steady at about 82.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Madden said officials will support the 2021 budget through the use of $438,500 from surplus funds (savings). She said state aid is expected to remain flat at $131,595. Allentown will receive grants and other revenues to support the budget.

In 2019, the budget totaled $2.48 million and was supported by the collection of $1.58 million in taxes from property owners. The average home was assessed at $290,842. With a tax rate of 82.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, the owner of that home paid about $2,390 in municipal taxes.

In 2020, the budget totaled $2.98 million and was supported by the collection of $1.58 million in taxes from property owners. The average home was assessed at $291,600. With a tax rate of 82.2 cents, the owner of that home paid about $2,397 in municipal taxes. Borough officials used $566,000 from surplus to eliminate a projected increase in the municipal tax rate of 3.5 cents.

In 2021, the $3.12 million budget will be supported by a tax levy of $1.68 million. An increase of 5.21 cents in the tax rate will raise the rate to about 87.4 cents. The owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $292,860 will pay about $2,559 in municipal taxes.

Madden said Allentown’s open space tax is expected to generate $87,000 in 2021. The money is used for the acquisition and maintenance of open space parcels in the community.

An agreement with Capital Health for emergency medical services is expected to cost Allentown about $77,000 in 2021.

“Last year we did not raise taxes during the pandemic,” Councilman Dan Payson said. “The burden falls on us this year. We continue to look at ways to mitigate taxes.”

“We are paying for a failing infrastructure from the last 20 years,” Mayor Thomas Fritts said. “We had to make cuts everywhere else. It’s tough … we are forced to do these things to be responsible.”

Putting off difficult decisions will cost more in the long run, the mayor said.

Councilman Michael Drennan, who chairs the finance committee, said, “This is a budget the public can accept, and a budget we can accept and be proud of.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Allentown has a population of just under 1,900 residents.