Haddonfield Commissioners approve 2016 borough budget, slight increase in taxes

Haddonfield Commissioners approve 2016 borough budget, slight increase in taxes

Haddonfield residents will see a slight increase in municipal taxes.

Borough commissioners unanimously approved the 2016 borough budget at their meeting on Tuesday, March 22. The budget will have an increase of $36 per year in municipal taxes for the average assessed home at $488,481.

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“The last two years, we’ve had no increase in the municipal tax rate and this year’s (increase) is very, very small, so we tried very, very hard to keep spending in line because we understand the tax burden of residents in Haddonfield and we do anything we can to keep that number down. I think this is a responsible budget,” Commissioner Neal Rochford said.

The budget is $16.2 million, of which $10.3 million will be raised through property taxes. This puts the tax rate at 49.43 cents per $100 of assessed property value, which is an increase of 1.49 percent over last year.

For the average assessed home at $488,481, total municipal taxes will be $2,414.

According to a budget message released at the commissioners meeting, employee salaries, benefits and pension payments make up 51 percent of the borough budget, totaling $8.3 million, going up by $470,945. This increase is mainly due to cost shifting of expenses from the water and sewer utility to the current fund and a 53rd week of pay that falls in 2016. A cost of living increase averaging 1.5 percent will be granted to non-union employees and the police.

For the sixth year in a row, it is anticipated state funding will be flat at $981,000.

The borough’s annual road program continues to play a large part in the capital budget, with commissioners funding $1.7 million for road reconstruction and design. Through the proceeds from the sale of the water and sewer utility, the borough was able to liquidate most current debt. This has enabled the commissioners to increase the amount of cash for the road program, which will allow the borough to complete more road projects.

A fire truck and several other items in the capital plan will be funded with remaining funds from prior ordinances. Items in the capital budget to be funded by the 2016 bond ordinance include various public works equipment, a message board and improvements to the tennis courts.

Mayor Jeff Kasko thanked all of those who are involved each year in the borough budget process.

In other news:

• Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance on first reading to acquire $13.58 million in bonds or notes for the purchase of the Bancroft site. This is part of the process the borough has to go through for it to own the site.

“I think it is worth noting that this amount covers the entire purchase of the property, but we still plan on developing a portion of that, so land will be sold to a developer and we’ll earn proceeds from that. So we have no expectation of carrying (the entire purchase price) long term … Whatever is left we’ll be raising enough tax revenue from the residential units put on the property to cover any debt service from this, so it will be done in a tax neutral fashion,” Commissioner John Moscatelli said.

The public hearing will be at the next commissioners meeting on Tuesday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m.

• Other ordinances unanimously passed on second reading included an annual ordinance establishing salaries and wages for non-union employees, re-appropriating $625,000 of bonds for the purchase of a new fire truck, and a bond ordinance for $230,000 for capital improvements, which would include improvements to recreational facilities, the acquisition of public works equipment and improvements to facilities, and the acquisition of police equipment.

• Commissioners swore in new full-time probationary police officer Kevin Grygon and appointed Michael Caruso as the acting corporal for the Haddonfield Police Department.

• A proclamation was giving to the Haddonfield Lions Club for Lions Club Sight Awareness Month.