Boro holds budget increase to 1.5 cents

Council members Curley and Beck vote against budget

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

After months of debate and number crunching by the Red Bank Borough Council, the 2004 municipal budget was finally passed on Tuesday night of last week.

Borough auditor David Kaplan announced an increase of 1.5 cents on the tax rate.

The relatively low rate increase is partially due to funds received from the state totaling $170,000. The borough is receiving $100,000 in extraordinary aid to help lower the tax increase, and another $70,000 is coming to the borough in the form of Homeland Security Police Assistance.

Although many on the council were satisfied with the low increase, Councilman John Curley and Councilwoman Jennifer Beck were not. Curley made a motion to defeat the budget and Beck seconded.

Curley once again brought up the hotel/motel occupancy tax that has yet to be implemented in the borough.

"With a modest estimate of 50 percent occupancy, the borough could receive an extra revenue of $100,000 annually, which is 1 cent off the tax rate," Curley said.

Beck supported Curley by seconding his motion.

"I will not support a budget with a tax increase," she said.

Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr. argued that this budget was as good as the borough could do. He said his goal is to make sure the borough has money in reserve for the unexpected.

"We have an impeccable record for passing budgets well below the rate of inflation," said McKenna, calling this year’s budget "miraculous."

Last year, the tax rate increased by 4.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The 2004 budget passed with a vote of four to two.

Some factors responsible for the increase include the cost of borough employee health insurance, which has risen by about 10 percent, and compensation insurance, which has increased by roughly 3 percent.

Liability insurance, compensation and employee group insurance have all been exempted from the state-mandated budget cap.

The Red Bank budget compares favorably with neighboring boroughs like Fair Haven, where health insurance for borough employees increased by twice as much and the tax rate increased by more than two cents.

The last time the borough reassessed property values was in 2001. At that time, the average value of a home was $178,000.

"It looks like, from the statistics, that we’re getting close to the point that they’ll ask us to do it again," said borough Chief Financial Officer Bruce Loversidge about the Monmouth County Board of Taxation, which determines when municipalities must reassess properties.