MARLBORO — In a 3-2 vote that saw the Republican majority on the Marlboro Township Council split, the members of the governing body have adopted a $42.52 million budget to fund the operation of the municipality during 2022.
The budget was adopted during the council’s May 19 meeting. Voting “yes” on a motion to adopt the budget were Republican Township Council President Juned Qazi, Democratic Councilwoman Randi Marder and Democratic Councilman Michael Scalea.
Voting “no” on the motion to adopt the budget were Republican Township Council Vice President Antoinette DiNuzzo and Republican Councilman Michael Milman.
Qazi, DiNuzzo and Milman joined the council in January after winning election in November and went through their first budget process between February and the budget’s adoption in May.
Under Marlboro’s form of government, the administration develops the budget and presents it to the council. The council members review and adopt the spending plan.
Municipal officials said the owner of a home assessed at the current township average of $495,437 would pay about $45 more in municipal taxes in 2022 than in 2021.
The budget was discussed at length by the council members and Democratic Mayor Jonathan Hornik during the meeting.
Milman said, “the current budget proposal asks for a tax increase. I don’t want taxes going up at this point. Everything is going up; gas, groceries. How do we keep our budget flat? We asked to take out more from our surplus account. The council should meet in executive (closed) session to make sure we are all on the same page.”
Township Attorney Louis Rainone informed Milman the municipal budget is not an item that is permitted to be discussed in executive session, out of sight from members of the public.
And Hornik said the township’s elected officials cannot keep taking money out of the surplus fund without putting Marlboro’s AAA credit rating at risk.
Regarding the rising prices people are currently paying for many items, DiNuzzo said, “Everyone is feeling the pain. I don’t know how much more people can take. I can’t support an increase.”
Hornik said, “I want a zero tax increase, too. So does Councilman Scalea, so does Councilwoman Marder. But it’s irresponsible. This is a tight budget.”
Addressing the Republicans, the mayor said, “Show me where to cut the budget. You have not done that for 14 weeks.”
Addressing DiNuzzo, Hornik said, “You have had the budget for 14 weeks and haven’t asked me to cut $1. To me, you didn’t do your job.”
During public comment, Marlboro Republican Municipal Chairman John Gibardi asked for a full copy of the budget to search for areas of savings. He said, “Our taxpayers are getting slammed. Our water rates are going up.” Gibardi asked municipal officials not to impose a tax increase.
As the discussion continued, Milman made a motion to postpone the adoption of the budget until June 16 so the council members could have more time to discuss it.
He was informed by the administration that a temporary emergency budget was not in place and if the budget was not adopted that evening the township could face a financial crisis.
Hornik objected to postponing the adoption of the budget, saying, “it would be a complete waste of time. It’s a political stunt. We can’t have this in Marlboro.”
Marder said the surplus fund cannot be depleted as a means of avoiding a tax increase. She said money needs to remain in the surplus fund “because you can’t plan for every eventuality. I 100% trust (Business Administrator) Jonathan Capp to put together a budget.”
On a roll call vote to postpone the adoption of the budget, Milman and DiNuzzo voted “yes” and Qazi, Marder and Scalea voted “no,” which meant the motion was defeated and the budget’s adoption would not be postponed.
As the discussion wound down, a motion was made to adopt the 2022 municipal budget. On a roll call vote, Marder, Scalea and Qazi voted “yes” to adopt the budget and DiNuzzo and Milman voted “no.” The budget was adopted in a 3-2 vote.
Contacted by the News Transcript and asked why he voted in favor of the budget, Qazi said, “I voted in favor of the budget because I believe it was a fiscally responsible budget given the current inflationary environment.
“The budget maintains the level of services our residents have come to expect as a premium town in New Jersey. The mayor and all council members worked very hard on this budget since the beginning of the year,” he said.
“Given the current increase in costs from everything – gas, supplies and equipment – the budget increase was necessary. Despite our desire to have a flat budget, the slight increase is fiscally responsible given what is happening today.
“It is important to point out that most of the budget increase is coming from the town’s funding surplus (or savings) so not to overly burden Marlboro residents. I compliment the mayor and administration for working hard with all council members in a transparent manner to get through this difficult budget year,” Qazi said.
In 2020, Marlboro’s budget totaled $40.5 million and was supported by the collection of $28.49 million in taxes from residential and commercial property owners. The municipal tax rate was 39.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home was assessed at $495,093 and the owner of that home paid about $1,945 in municipal taxes.
In 2021, Marlboro’s budget totaled $40.58 million and was supported by the collection of $29.17 million in taxes from residential and commercial property owners. The municipal tax rate was 40 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home was assessed at $494,783 and the owner of that home paid about $1,979 in municipal taxes.
In 2022, Marlboro’s $42.52 million budget will be supported by a $29.87 million tax levy to be paid by commercial and residential property owners. The municipal tax rate is projected to be 40.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, according to Capp.
Capp said the average home in Marlboro is now preliminarily assessed at $495,437, which would result in the owner of that home paying about $2,026 in municipal taxes.
Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill. Property owners in Marlboro also pay Marlboro K-8 School District taxes, Freehold Regional High School District taxes, a fire district tax and Monmouth County taxes.
The total amount of property taxes an individual pays is based on the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.
In 2021, municipal officials used $5.6 million from Marlboro’s surplus account as revenue in the budget. Other revenue for 2021 included the receipt of $2.27 million from the state, which was the same amount the township received in 2020.
In 2022, municipal officials are proposing to use $5.9 million from Marlboro’s surplus account as revenue in the budget. Other revenue for 2022 will include the receipt of $2.27 million from the state, which is the same amount the township received in 2021, according to Capp.