City adopts $2.8 million budget that cuts tax rate

By: Carl Reader
   LAMBERTVILLE — The City Council has passed a $2.8 million budget that holds the line on spending and offers taxpayers an average $2.53 reduction in their municipal taxes.
   "We’ve done that without raiding the surplus to a ridiculous level or raising taxes," Mayor David Del Vecchio said.
   The 2002 budget passed April 30 totals $2,843,027. In 2001, it was $2,812,765. Taxes are expected to raise $1,022,583 for the city as compared to $1,027,785 for 2001. Those amounts are based on an average assessed home value of $175,029, up from last year’s average assessed home value of $174,708.
   The tax rate has gone down to 29.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation from 30 cents in 2001. A taxpayer whose home is assessed at the city average will pay $2.53 less in municipal taxes. "The Division of Taxation approved the budget without comment," said City Clerk Mary Sheppard.
   As far as expenses go, the new budget funds 3.5 percent raises for employees in most cases. It also funds a new part-time employee for finance and administration along with funding the beginning of the reassessment process Lambertville homes must go through by state mandate.
   The budget also funds health benefits at a 12.2 increase along with funding insurance at a 13.32 percent increase.
   "We get to participate in that from the state for group coverage," Ms. Sheppard said. "It’s the cheapest we could get."
   That includes a $12,000 payment on behalf of the Lambertville New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad to pay for vehicle insurance. It pays for workers compensation, including $24,000 on behalf of the squad. The volunteers are considered city employees for the purposes of workers compensation insurance.
   The budget leases a new police vehicle while funding inmates to work on the recycling truck. It pays off 33.3 percent more debt than in 2001. That’s the second highest amount the city has ever paid off.
   With spending, the new budget shows salaries and wages are up 1.7 percent over last year. Benefits rise 6 percent, but costs for professionals, such as attorneys, are down by 40 percent, since the Orleans suit has been settled.
   Money for the Lambertville Public Library rises 15 percent this year for a total of $134,494.
   In all, spending is up 1.1 percent, and the surplus goes down 21.6 percent.
   Holding the line on salaries starts right off the top with the salaries of the mayor and council. Mr. Del Vecchio is budgeted to receive $5,996 in 2002, compared to $6,000 in 2001, but he will take nothing as he has in previous years. The rest of the council is to receive the same $1,499 this year as it got last year.
   Ms. Sheppard will get $51,989 as municipal clerk in 2002, up from $48,782 in 2001. Her three-person department is budgeted for $72,232 in 2002, compared to $66,651 in actual salaries and wages in 2001.
   Chief Financial Officer Linda Monteverde is slated to get $37,179, after receiving $35,922 in 2001. With a new hire in 2002, that department is scheduled to see $43,939 in salaries and wages. In 2001, it was $35,922.
   Tax Assessor Rick Carmosino received $19,119 in 2001. He will get $25,000 in 2002 in his one-person department. Tax Collector Bonnie Eick, in a two-person department, goes from $29,934 to $30,982, with that department budgeted for $41,477 as compared to an actual cost of $39,730 in 2001.
   City Attorney Phil Faherty will be paid $15,000 in 2002. That’s up from $12,000 in 2001. That two-person department is budgeted for $27,000 as compared to an actual cost of $80,181 in 2001.
   The 2002 budget holds the line for other expenses for the municipal clerk’s office at $17,500. Other expenses for the finance and administration office are budgeted at $5,500 in 2002. The actual expense in 2001 was $3,109.
   The assessor’s other expenses were $5,031 in 2001. They’re budgeted at $5,580 in 2002. The tax collector’s budget for 2002 is $8,675 with actual expenses in 2001 being $7,913.
   Health benefits are budgeted to cost $207,000 in 2002 as compared to an actual expense of $180,028, and insurance costs are budgeted at $93,572. Actual insurance costs last year were $82,485. Workers compensation is budgeted at $46,053 compared to an actual cost of $36,676 in 2001.
   Police Director Bruce Cocuzza, whose contract ran out in April, was hired for another year at a salary of $51,468, up from a 2001 budget figure of $49,728. Total police salaries and wages are budgeted for $650,000 in 2002 as compared to an actual expense of $691,128 in 2001.
   Other expenses for the Police Department are budgeted in 2002 for $65,730. In 2001, the department had actual expenses of $63,184. There are 13 full-time employees in the department, including 10 full-time officers. There are five part-time employees.
   Public Works Director Paul Cronce is budgeted for a salary of $51,667 in 2002. That compares to $49,920 in 2001. The total salaries and wages for his five-person department is budgeted in 2002 as $176,021. Actual salaries in 2001 were $154,575.
   Other expenses for Public Works in 2002 are to be $35,760. In 2001, the actual expenses were $35,529.
   Solid waste salaries and wages have a budget of $57,079 in 2002 as compared to an actual total of $55,044 in 2001. Chief driver Matthew Burd is budgeted to receive $33,153. Other expenses for solid waste are budgeted for $142,000.
   Planning Board Secretary Chris Colt is budgeted in 2002 for a salary of $5,561 as compared to $5,470 in 2001. For the same position with the Board of Adjustment, Mr. Colt is budgeted to receive $2,860 as compared to $2,763 in 2001.
   Total salaries and wages for the Construction Department are $33,025 in 2002 as compared to an actual total of $29,301 in 2001 in the five-person department. Building Inspector William White is budgeted for $11,500 in 2002 as compared to the same figure in 2001.