Budget proposal keeps taxes steady

Committe expected to introduce $6 million budget for 2006

By: William Wichert
   MANSFIELD — For the second consecutive year, township officials plan to avoid any increase in local taxes.
   The Township Committee is expected to introduce a $6 million budget for 2006 on Feb. 22 that would hold the local-purpose tax rate at 31 cents per $100 of assessed property value if adopted. For the owners of a house assessed at the township average of $168,000, their annual tax bill will remain $521.
   "The residents needed a break. I needed a break," said Township Committeeman Jaime Devereaux, noting how the local purpose tax rate tripled two years ago and his own taxes jumped by over $2,000. "The township is going in the right direction."
   This proposed budget represents an 8.5 percent increase over last year’s financial package, mostly due to a more than 200 percent rise in pension costs and a 40 percent increase in utility costs, said Chief Financial Officer Joseph Monzo. Health insurance costs also rose by about 8 percent, he said.
   Township officials have been able to stave off a tax increase because of increased revenues from previous investments and other various sources, including $200,000 in seed money from Dallas-based Centex Homes for the first part of its court settlement with the municipality, said Mr. Monzo. The developer is expected to pay $4.58 million to the township for a sewer project in the village of Columbus.
   With these additional funds, Mansfield has been able to build a surplus of $2.6 million, representing an increase over the $1.7 million surplus from last year, said Mr. Monzo. The municipality expects to use $1.6 million from its surplus in the 2006 budget, he said.
   "Towns would kill to have a surplus (that’s) 60 percent of their budgets," said Mr. Monzo. He said this money could be used to offset future township costs.
   This budget will be the last one to include this tax rate and average assessment, since the municipality is currently undergoing a reassessment of property values, said Mr. Monzo. The first effects of this reassessment will be found on 2007 tax bills, he said.
   The municipality is appropriating $100,000 in its proposed budget as a "reserve for tax appeals," which would be used whenever residents challenge their new tax assessments, but he said the reassessment will not produce additional revenue for the township. As the assessment values change, the local purpose tax rate will be modified as well, and the same amount of taxes will be collected, said Mr. Monzo.