Council passes amended 2018 municipal budget 7–0

The municipal tax rate will increase 7.7 cents per every $100 of assessed property value.

At its latest meeting, Gloucester Township Council approved its 2018 municipal budget. The amended budget, which passed by a vote of 7–0, is more than $61.8 million — and includes a nearly $79,000 decrease since the budget was introduced in late March.

The municipal tax rate will increase 7.7 cents per every $100 of assessed property value.

According to Council President Orlando Mercado, the average assessed home is valued at $195,000, configuring an annual increase of $150.15 in municipal property taxes — a $4 decrease since the introduced budget.

Council says Gloucester Township municipal taxes will account for 28 percent of the overall property tax bill. Mercado says for residents paying roughly $10,000 in property taxes, more than $2,700 of the figure will go toward the municipality.

The remaining 72 percent includes taxes related to the Black Horse Pike Regional School District, the Gloucester Township Public School District and Camden County.

Since the April 12 council meeting, when more than 200 residents jammed into the municipal court to voice concerns over the increase, council tweaked the budget, particularly decreasing appropriations such as the salaries of Mayor Dave Mayer and the offices of the township administrator and township attorney.

In particular, Mayer’s salary decreased from $189,000 to $181,000.

In the revised budget, council carved out $116,000 in reduced salaries, according to Mercado. Therefore, township employees not in a union did not have a 2 percent income increase.

Despite the amendment, dozens of residents continued voicing concerns throughout the evening.

“We would like for you to care for us. Everyone is saying the tax is too high,” said Sicklerville resident Nancy Schmidt. “I’m disgruntled like everyone else — that’s why I’m here again.”

Several residents asked for clarification on details of the new budget, like the nearly $14 million dedicated to miscellaneous revenues.

“I see a lot of waste in the township,” said resident Anna Sterling. “I see a lot of little things that if you cut back, you can save a lot of money, a lot of our money.”

“Miscellaneous revenues,” is a state budgetary term, according to business administrator Tom Cardis, which encompasses a multitude of categories. He did not give specifics.

Also a point of concern, several line items on the “current fund revenues” increased from zero to several thousands.

Council said these jumps are related to state grants, including the services like anti-drug enforcement and drunk driving prevention. These funds do not influence the tax levy increase, according to Cardis.

Residents also questioned why township businesses, particularly the Gloucester Township Premium Outlets, seem to have little influence on property taxes.

Mercado said prior to the outlets, the owners on that parcel of land were paying less than $5,000 in taxes. But, now, the township receives nearly $431,000 in taxes for the area.

Residents stressed they believe the recent increases in taxes, are drawing residents out of their homes, as several people noted the growing number of foreclosed homes in their neighborhoods.

“I was wondering how many of you (council) have a vacant house on your block or in your neighborhood?” said resident Joann Carr. “Pretty soon, we’re all gonna have vacant houses next to us.”

The public inquired where the township could reduce its spending, noting that other towns, like Cherry Hill, also include various public services in their budget but do not experience comparable tax increases.

Councilman Dan Hutchison said the only “meaningful” place to make cuts would be from public service, which, he says, accounts for nearly $18 million of total budget.

“Our children are safe in this town. We have a police department that’s very active in protecting our community,” he said. “We have services that many people in this room don’t know we have until they need them.”

Hutchison says, with its expansive public service, the township always helps a “child in crisis.”

Throughout the meeting, homeowners, particularly seniors, stressed they’re now paying more money in taxes than on their actual mortgage. They say they’ve been forced to pick up second jobs.

“I’m not a child in crisis. I’m a senior in crisis,” said resident Judy Jones, in response to Hutchison’s crisis comment.

“We don’t wanna move,” added resident Andie Blizzard. “But, we may not have a choice.”