South Brunswick taxpayers could feel the effects of the bad economy and 2011's major storms when they get their tax bills in June, if a proposed $48.2 million budget is approved by the Township Council.
The budget, up about $1.4 million, reflects costs associated with Hurricane Irene, an October snow storm and a run of commercial tax appeals and calls for a 4 percent increase in the municipal portion of the tax bill, from 72 cents per $100 to 75 cents.
Under that rate, the owner of a home valued at $195,000 would see an increase of about $60 in municipal taxes.
Due to state law, South Brunswick had to introduce the municipal budget by March 9, or at the first meeting after that date.
"We're just doing this to comply statutorily with the state, but this is not the final product," said Councilman John O'Sullivan during last night's Township Council meeting. "My fellow councilmen will tell you, we still have a ways to go on this."
Township Chief Financial Officer Joseph Monzo said the township ratable base dropped by about $100 million to approximately $3.6 billion last year. Over the last seven years, the township's ratable base has decreased by approximately $180 million.
Subtracting grants obtained by the township, operational spending would increase by about $1.2 million over last year's budget. About $975,000 of that increase is due to the cost of Hurricane Irene, the Halloween snowstorm, and the impact of tax appeals, Monzo said. The township is expecting a reimbursement from FEMA for approximately $300,000 for the cost of the two storms at some point this year.
"During the last three years alone, 8 percent of our ratable base has been diminished from the net affect of tax appeals," Monzo said.
In February,, but that number has been reduced after a series of budget meetings with various township department heads over the past few weeks. The meetings are expected to continue in an attempt to further reduce the tax increase before the budget is adopted in April.
Under the 2 percent tax cap, the township could have raised taxes by 7.7-cents, or 9.6 percent. Increases in health care, emergencies like Hurricane Irene, and the loss of tax ratables can be built into the tax levy.
"A lot of hard work has gone into this so far and I want to thank all of our directors and employees for helping us to get down from a 7-cent increase to about 3 cents," said Mayor Frank Gambatese. "I commend you for your hard work, now let's see if we can get this down further."
The township received about $5.1 million in aid, after receiving $5.2 million last year.
Combined with the proposed increase to the municipal tax rate, the owner of a home valued at the township average could see an increase of approximately $160 in taxes this year.
The council expects to hold a public hearing on the budget at the first regular meeting next month, scheduled for April 10.
"We're only introducing this budget, we're not adopting it," Gambatese said. "We believe there's more work we need to do before the adoption of the 2012 budget takes place."