Officials hope to cut borough tax increase


expected in Sayreville’s ’05 budget


Staff Writer

The Sayreville municipal tax rate would rise by 7 cents under a proposed municipal budget for 2005.

Officials stressed, however, that they will look for ways to lower that increase by the time it is adopted by the Borough Council. Some said the borough may see a repeat of last year’s municipal tax rate increase, which was 4 cents.

The council introduced the budget March 7. At more than $42.2 million, the package represents an increase of $2.1 million from 2004. The amount to be raised by taxes is expected to rise $1.9 million to $18.2 million.

As proposed, the tax rate would go from 74 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 81 cents. If unchanged, the hike would have the owner of the average borough property, with an assessed valuation of $141,300, paying $99 more in municipal taxes next year.

The potential increase arrives at a time when residents are facing a proposed 9-cent school tax increase to support the 2005-06 school budget, which will be voted on in the April 19 school election. Those 9 cents would bring property taxes up an additional $127 for the owner of the average home. Between the school and municipal budgets, taxes on the average home would thus increase by $226.

“We have to tighten our belts even more,” Councilman Thomas Pollando said. “It’s tough times all over, and we have to do more with less. We want to get it to where it was last year because at this point we don’t know where the Board of Education is going as of yet, [as well as] the state aid.”

Borough Chief Financial Officer Wayne Kronowski cited several reasons for the increases in the municipal budget, such as salary and wage increases of approximately $728,000, which includes pension assessments as well as health insurance benefits.

Also included in increases were assessments to the Middlesex County Utilities Authority of $250,000 for wastewater treatment.

Despite the increases in costs, Kronowski said state aid has remained flat from last year, at $12,151,524.

“I would assume the reason is the state’s own problems with the [state] budget,” he said.

Kronowski said the borough may not know until June if it will receive $200,000 in state extraordinary aid, which is the amount it received last year.

As part of an effort to keep taxes from increasing further, the amount of surplus funds being applied to the budget will be increased by $200,000, from $3.4 million in 2004 to $3.6 million in 2005, Kronowski said.

Despite such efforts, the proposed tax rate is still at 7 cents, which is the same hike proposed when last year’s budget was introduced. That figure ended up at 4 cents before the 2004 budget was adopted, Kronowski said.

“The council is going to be looking at the budget from time to time before the extraordinary aid figures come in,” he said. “We’ll either reduce the expenditure side of the budget or look for additional revenue to apply in order to reduce the proposed tax increase.”

Kronowski said the budget could fund as many as six additional police officers, as well as new code enforcement employees.

“We’re not relying on one-time revenues,” he said of the borough’s approach in crafting the budget. “It’s really bare-bones to maintain the services we have now.”

Pollando is optimistic that the tax increase will wind up lower than is currently proposed.

“The tax rate will be cut,” he said. “We’re going to look to cut this and look to get it where it was last year, if not better.”

He said officials want to see what expenses could be cut to realize that goal.

“Obviously, the first thing we looked to do was cut out things we don’t need, as far as manpower, equipment, what we could hold off for following years,” Pollando said. “That’s the priorities we tried to look at.”

“People want more with less, that’s obviously what we’re trying to do,” Pollando added. “We’re not finished with the cuts, I can tell you that much.”

Council President Frank Makransky said the budget would not be finalized until all final figures, including state extraordinary aid is announced. He said he expects to have the budget adopted by July.

For now, a public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 11 at 7:30 p.m. at borough hall.