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Middletown committee introduces $84M municipal budget for 2021

MIDDLETOWN – The Township Committee has introduced Middletown’s 2021 municipal budget and scheduled a public hearing on the proposed spending plan for June 7.

The budget was introduced during a meeting on May 3. Mayor Tony Perry, Deputy Mayor Rick Hibell, Committeeman Kevin Settembrino, Committeewoman Patricia Snell and Committeeman Ryan Clarked voted “yes” on a motion to introduce the budget.

“The Township Committee and administration collaborated to find creative ways to reduce our overall expenses through streamlining efficiencies, shared services and pursuing grant opportunities,” Mayor Tony Perry said.

The 2021 budget shows appropriations totaling $84.4 million. Middletown’s residential and commercial property owners will pay a local tax levy of $55.75 million to support municipal operations.

The 2020 budget has appropriations totaling $83.11 million. Middletown’s residential and commercial property owners paid a local tax levy of $55.77 million to support municipal operations.

Chief Financial Officer Colleen Lapp said while appropriations have increased by $1.3 million from 2020 to 2021, the tax levy has decreased by $20,000.

In 2020, the municipal tax rate was 48.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in Middletown was assessed at $447,629 and the owner of that home paid about $2,171 in municipal taxes.

In 2021, the municipal tax rate is projected to decrease to 46.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in Middletown is now assessed at $467,271 and the owner of that home will pay about $2,182 in municipal taxes.

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s tax bill. Property owners also pay Middletown Township Public Schools 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.

Middletown will receive $6.04 million in state aid to support the budget in 2021. That amount has remained flat since 2010, according to municipal officials.

Lapp said for each $1 in taxes that is paid by a property owner in Middletown, 62 cents goes to the school district, 23 cents goes to the municipality, 11 cents goes to the county, 2 cents goes to the Middletown library and 2 cents goes to open space.

“We worked hard on this (2021) budget. It was a team effort from top to bottom,” Lapp said during her presentation to the Township Committee and members of the public who were viewing the meeting as it was being broadcast live from the municipal building.

Through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Middletown was allocated $3 million to be used over the next year to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to municipal officials.

“Once it is clear what exactly the stimulus package can be used for, we will make strategic decisions about how to best use the relief funds,” Hibell said.

Snell commended Lapp and her staff “for always keeping residents’ finances in mind when you are developing the budget.”

In comments from the dais, Perry said, “I want to thank Colleen Lapp and her staff, and our township administrator, Tony Mercantante … When you look at the lost revenue in a lot of departments last year … to come in this year and be able to offer a ($20,000) reduction in the tax levy is something to be proud of.

“There are still people affected by COVID and people who are out of work,” the mayor said, adding that municipal officials have to ensure that they will not be responsible for causing taxes to increase.

Perry said the 2021 budget continues to invest in Middletown’s infrastructure and to provide necessary services. He said that for the Township Committee and the professional staff “to come in with no increase in the tax levy is something to be proud of.”

Middletown officials offered the following 2021 budget facts:

• Middletown continues to realize savings through revenue-enhancing shared service agreements with other municipalities (including Fair Haven, Hazlet, Highlands and Holmdel), the Middletown Board of Education and Monmouth County;

• Middletown has a shared service agreement with the county for Community Development Block Grant management that enables the township to continue its housing rehabilitation program at reduced costs;

• Healthy reserves have permitted officials to reduce the budget lines for insurance by more than $1 million;

•  Storm response costs increased by $970,000 due to an increase in the number of winter storms in 2021, coupled with reduced reserves due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

• Retirement costs increased by approximately $630,000. Municipal officials said this is a direct result of the state reducing the projected return on investment and increased retirement expenses;

• Contractual police salary increases of approximately $465,000.

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