Council decides against reducing deferment

Money will be held in surplus unless borough faces emergency

By sandi carpello
Staff Writer

By sandi carpello
Staff Writer

FAIR HAVEN — Though the option still exists, an accidentally deferred $150,000 in school taxes will not be removed from the borough’s budget.

With an unwritten hands-off policy, the council said they would access the money only in an emergency situation.

"That’s what it looks like. Because the budget is so tight, we don’t want to max ourselves out [by reducing the surplus]," said Councilman Garrett Bess. "Our intention is not to touch the money. As long as we don’t touch it, it will continue to show up in surplus."

In an effort to give taxpayers a break this year, the council last April approved a school tax deferment in the 2003 municipal budget that will be covered in the 2004 budget. Due to an oversight, the council’s intention to defer $250,000 was instead passed as a $400,000 deferment.

Not accessing the $150,000 will diminish the chances of a future tax spike, according to Thomas Stetson, of Hutchins, Farrell, Meyer and Allison, Freehold, the borough’s consulting business and financial advisers.

"If there was a tax increase, they would have more money in surplus to counter the increase, he said.

Bess said the $150,000 would only be used in the event of a storm, emergency road repair, or other things of that nature.

"If there were an emergency, we would have to bond for [those expenses] anyhow. Everyone’s feeling is the money shouldn’t be touched."

While Councilwoman Beatrice Sena said she was not convinced that the council was disciplined enough to keep their hands off the money, Tax Auditor Gene Farrell suggested the borough develop a five-year business and budgeting plan.

Bess, however, suggested that the town take up its financial woes with the state.

"Every municipality in the state of New Jersey needs to put pressure on the state for property tax reform. That’s the bottom line," he said. The [state] needs to get off their you-know-whats and start solving the problem."

According to the borough’s municipal data sheet detailing its revenues and appropriations, with the extra $150,000 the borough is anticipating a surplus of $866,000 in its $5,351,655.58 2003 budget.

The surplus the borough anticipated and realized in 2002 was $540,000.