Mayors Message: Municipal Budget

Mayor Louis Manzo discusses the township's new budget and how it came to be.

We adopted our annual budget on May 6. This is a culmination of about four months of hard work, dating back to late November. Department heads devise their budgets and eventually the vetting and cutting process determines the new required local tax rate, which accounts for about 15 percent of your total tax bill.

We entered this year’s budget process with some unique challenges and specific objectives. Most notable is the shift in our recyclable disposal costs. This is directly connected to America’s well-known tariff war with China. The township has always been paid a variable amount for our recyclables and only two years ago, that rate was $15 per cubic ton, on an annual amount of 1,600 tons. That math equates to about $24,000 in annual revenue. China, the world’s No. 1 acceptor and purchaser of recyclables, reacted to the imposed U.S. trade tariffs by no longer accepting our recyclable material. Therefore, last year, it cost us $66 a ton for disposal and we entered this year knowing that number would jump to $111 a ton, resulting in a cost of $177,600. That $200,000 shift was unanticipated two years ago and hopefully will not be permanent.

We also sought to appropriate money for our schools this year to assist their endurance of massive funding cuts from the state, which began implementation last year. The Harrison Township and Clearview Regional school districts are an integral thread in the fabric of our community for obvious reasons and are consistently top tier districts statewide, both administratively (cost per pupil) and educationally (test scores, etc.).

You may have heard about these cuts, but I’m sure most of you don’t realize the significant negative impact this will have on our school’s budgets over the next six years. Hence, we decided to seek the capability to purchase one new school bus for each district this year, since they are required to replace buses on a use/mileage basis. This also aligns with our commitment to direct PILOT dollars their way based on need. Certainly, these catastrophic funding cuts create a big “need.” Each new bus costs about $93,000 and we included that line item in our budget.

All of this results in a 2019 budget of $11,720,737, which is $281,348 more than last year. Considering the factors I referenced here, we are pleased with that outcome. This calls for a 2.4-cent increase on our local tax rate, taking it to 45.9 cents per $100 of assessed value. That means the average-priced home of $342,650 will pay $1,572.76 (or about $131/month) for all our local services. That’s $82.24 more than last year and we never like an increase. But the previous two years, we did a zero and 1-cent increase and this new rate still leaves us with the second- or third-lowest tax rate in the county.

We thank our department heads and leadership team for maintaining our status as, “dollar-for-dollar,” one of the most affordable communities in the region…and certainly the best place to live and raise a family. Admittedly, I’m biased.