South River Council adopts $19.5 million municipal budget for 2022

SOUTH RIVER – After a 4-2 vote, the members of the South River Borough Council have adopted a $19.52 million municipal budget for 2022.

During a meeting on May 2, Council President Tony Ciulla, Councilwoman Donna Balazs, Councilman Peter Guindi, and Councilman James Gurchensky voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the budget.

Councilman Jason Oliveira and Councilwoman Julie Meira voted “no” on the motion.

In a statement shared with the Sentinel, Oliveira explained his decision to vote against the budget’s adoption. He stated that the budget didn’t include items that were “promised” to residents.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank the budget committee for putting in the effort to create the municipal budget. When it came time to vote on the budget, I decided to vote against the budget due to the lack of follow through regarding the promises that were made to residents at our second meeting in December.

“At the second meeting in December, we promised our residents a full-time building inspector. When the budget was released, the full-time position was not budgeted. Councilman Guindi also asked a series of questions that raised some additional concerns regarding the budget for commissions and the business administrator.

“Although promises were not kept and I didn’t agree with the budget, I’m looking forward to seeing the part-time model play out and see what benefit this may bring to the town and our residents.

“Ultimately, the budget was passed by the council, and I respect the decision of each council member. I look forward to working with everyone to continue to move our borough in the right direction,” Oliveira said.

Councilwoman Meira also expressed concerns over the 2022 budget, stating that it doesn’t effectively advocate for the residents of South River.

“I voted no on Monday’s budget for many reasons. This administration has forgotten why we are all elected officials, and that is to advocate for our residents.

“This budget was created with no intention to resolve any concerns or issues our borough faces. Zero monies were put into roads or water main infrastructure. Our current road improvements are only done with DOT funds or county roads get improved by the county.

“This administration has also failed to listen to residents and local developers when they expressed the importance of having a full-time qualified construction official. Our construction department is crucial in developing and improving our borough.

“We are lacking the access of inspection availability with only part-time employees. The full-time position has not been filled since 2020. If this administration cared about the future of South River, they would be looking into more funding assistance for infrastructure.

“I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one who saw flaws in this budget, and I’m sure more residents will agree when they see more of the same, and nothing new to address their concerns,” Meira said.

For 2022, $11.42 million in collected taxes from residential and commercial property owners will support the budget. Of that total amount, $10.86 million will support municipal operations and $560,000 will support the local library.

Roughly $2.1 million will be appropriated from the borough’s surplus fund (savings) as revenue in the budget. Revenues from other sources ($6 million) will fund the balance of the budget.

In 2021, the budget totaled $19.33 million. The borough collected $11.08 million in taxes from residential and commercial property owners. Of that total tax levy, $10.57 million supported municipal functions and $507,000 supported the local library.

Municipal officials appropriated $1.93 million from the borough’s surplus fund (savings). about $6.32 million in other revenue sources funded the balance of the budget.

From 2021 to 2022, total budget appropriations increased by $190,000 and the tax levy increased by $340,000.

The 2021 municipal tax rate was 70 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. In South River, the average home was assessed at $291,086 with owners paying about $2,037 (2,910 x .7) in municipal taxes.

For 2022, the municipal tax rate is projected to increase to 71.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in South River is now assessed at $291,589. This will result in a municipal tax payment of about $2,092 (2,915 x .718).

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Middlesex County taxes and South River Public School District taxes.

The total amount of taxes an individual pays is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property, and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

Selected appropriations in the 2022 municipal budget include the following: police salaries and wages – $3.8 million; employee group insurance – $3.19 million; payment of bond principal – $1.41 million; interest on bonds – $247,307; payment to Police and Fireman’s Retirement System of New Jersey – $1.18 million; sanitation operation and maintenance – $903,584; recycling – $380,000; public employees retirement system – $335,000; payment to Social Security System – $282,000; police dispatch/911 salaries and wages – $233,000; general administration salaries and wages – $122,000; financial administration salaries and wages – $116,000.

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