The municipal budget season officially kicked off in on Tuesday night when the mayor presented the 2012 draft to the borough council.
Tax payers can expect to see an increase in the borough's tax levy that stays within the governor's mandated two-percent cap, which Mayor Michael Skudera attributed to higher costs for goods and services, flat state aid funding, and contractual salary increases.
While the tax levy goes up a little over three percent, Skudera said the 10-percent increase in state mandated health care -- even though overall employee headcount remained lower -- was exempt from the two-percent cap.
The total budget for 2012 is $22.88 million, which is an increase of $380,857, Skudera told Patch on Wednesday.
Another big cost driver, according to Skudera, is the spike in tax appeal judgements that are anticipated to increse since According to the mayor, the cost of increasing vacancies in commercial office and industrial propoerties, that had once been occupied by private contractors working for the Army, falls on the borough. Tinton Falls bears 100 percent of refunds from tax appeal jdgements, even though it only receives less than a quarter of each refunded dollar, said Skudera.
Tuesday's presentation at the council meeting was "strictly informative," explained Council President Gary Baldwin. Council members now have the opportunity to go over the budget, which was developed by the mayor and his administration, before it's formally introduced and subject to a public hearing some time in March.
The borough saw close to a 2 percent decrease it its that Skudera said was due to the approximately $1 million cut in municipal spending and renogotiation of collective bargaining agreements and personnel changes.
The mayor attributed the continued trend of a low tax levy to long-range planning, building the borough's surplus and fiscal discilpline.
Skudera pointed out that last year, the municipal tax portion of property taxes -- the part that the mayor and council are directly responsible for -- made up 23 percent of the total tax bill. The rest of the bill is made up of costs for the elementary and high school, fire districts and the county.
"When people say 'Cut taxes, cut taxes,'" said Baldwin referring to a pie chart illustrating the municipal portion of the tax bill, "it's just not that easy."
A copy of the mayor's budget presentation can be found in our photo gallery to the right of this article.