Nearly three months after the first iteration of the 2019 budget was presented, Moorestown Council passed the budget on first reading at last Monday’s meeting. Under the proposed budget, the 2019 tax levy will generate $16,759,668, which marks a 2.86 increase from 2018.
The proposed local purpose tax of $0.41 per $100 of assessed value is an increase of 1 cent or 2.48 percent from last year. The average assessed home of $454,032 will pay $1,879.69 in local purpose taxes.This is a $45.40 increase over last year’s average assessed home tax bill. The municipal portion of this tax is $1,698.08, which is an increase of $36.32 from last year, while the library portion is $181.61, which is an increase of 5.26 percent from last year.
The total budget is $26,202,000, which is a 2.38 percent increase from the township’s 2018 appropriations. A 2018 tax appeal settlement with Macy’s and Lord & Taylor has the township raising $325,000 a year through the 2023 budget cycle to fund the settlement.
Salaries and wages increased by approximately $350,400 or 4.17 percent. This will partially fund four new positions including a stormwater coordinator, general supervisor, laborer and patrolman as well as some part-time help. The new hires were a source of some debate at Monday night’s meeting.
“I’m not happy with this budget,” said Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano. “I think we should have been spending more of the surplus. I’m not happy with the new hires. I think they’re going to be more expensive than you realize. I wouldn’t have it done it this way.”
Councilman Michael Locatell expressed similar hesitancies about the new positions. He said the additional salaries practically equate to the overall increase of the budget. Locatell also suggested using surplus to bridge the cost of the mall tax appeal rather than raising taxes.
Deputy Mayor Nicole Gillespie said they spoke with the township’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Merchel, and he cautioned them strongly against dipping into the reserves. She said services have suffered in recent years, people are complaining and the township has mounting problems that should be addressed.
“The bottom line is nobody wants their taxes increased, but I also feel like people aren’t getting their money’s worth for what they are paying,” Gillespie said.
Ultimately, Napolitano and Locatell voted “no” to the budget on first reading while Gillespie, Councilman Brian Donnelly and Mayor Lisa Petriello voted “yes.” The public hearing on the budget will take place at the July 8 council meeting.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.