Eatontown taxes up 10 percent in 2015 budget

Staff Writer

The owner of an average Eatontown home will pay an additional $236 in municipal taxes this year due to increases in assessments and appropriations by the borough.

The Borough Council adopted a $23.8 million budget in a unanimous vote at the May 13 meeting.

The budget includes a tax levy of $16,505,167 — a nearly $600,000 increase over the 2014 levy of $15.9 million.

Borough Auditor Robert Oliwa said the municipal budget includes an estimated tax rate of 78.9 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is the same rate as in 2014.

The owner of a home valued at the borough average of $329,175 will pay $2,597 in municipal taxes — an increase of about $236 from the 2014 amount of $2,361. Although the tax rate remains constant, tax bills will increase due to more current assessments.

“We’re adopting a budget that we feel is, although high, representative of the issues facing the town,” Councilman Anthony Talerico Jr. said.

“The sobering reality is that if you look at the ratables, what we had lost from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 — in spite of making them back — we made them back on the backs of the homeowners. They are taking the lion’s share of this increase,” he said.

Under the new countywide Real Property Assessment Demonstration Program, 20 percent of properties in a municipality are inspected each year to establish a database with information no more than five years old. Assessments are now done on a yearly basis rather than on a 10-year basis.

Oliwa said overall assessments have gone down by $27 million, which helped in maintaining the tax rate.

“The local rate can be stabilized at 78.9 cents thanks to that $27 million reduction,” he said. “Otherwise it would’ve of resulted in a tax rate of 79.8 — which is up one penny.” While the tax rate remains stable, Oliwa said the borough’s net valuation has increased by 5 percent, and approximately 91.3 percent of the increase is residential assessment.

“There was about a 10 percent increase in the average assessment, and although assessments are up only 5 percent overall, 91 percent is residential increases,” Oliwa said.

Talerico said he hopes the effect of the 10 percent increase on the average homeowner is a wakeup call for the borough.

“It’s a wakeup call to get searching for some type of productive, clean ratables in the borough, and hopefully we can get some relief that way,” he said.

“The new county system has some growing pains and we’re growing with them.”

Oliwa said appropriations for this year’s budget have increased by 1.4 percent overall.

“The increases in the appropriations — up $786,249 — and the decreases in certain line items of revenue are primarily being funded by local municipal taxes,” he said.

According to Oliwa, the largest decreases were delinquent taxes, which he said were down about $60,000 and construction code fees, which are down to $421,000.

One of the larger increases in appropriations was for debt service, which Oliwa said is up $253,800, or 1.4 percent.

He said police salaries and wages are also up $129,833, or 2.56 percent, while police and fire pension billing went up $95,150, or 11.25 percent.

Oliwa said this year’s capital budget totals approximately $1,520,300 and includes projects for road and building improvements as well as the acquisition of vehicles and equipment.