Moorestown Township residents will see a tax increase in the coming year. Township council adopted its 2019 budget at last Monday night’s meeting. Under the budget, the 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, an increase of $36.32 from last year, while the library portion is $181.61, an increase of 5.26 percent from last year. The 2019 tax levy will generate $16,759,668, which marks a 2.86 increase from 2018.
The total budget is $26,202,000, a 2.38 percent increase from the township’s 2018 appropriations. A 2018 tax appeal settlement with Macy’s and Lord & Taylor requires the township to raise $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.
Councilman Michael Locatell expressed his disappointment in the budget that was put forth.
“I think we could do better and not raise taxes on our residents,” Locatell said.
Locatell said he didn’t understand the need for some of the budget items. The budget allots for $5,000 in flowers on Main Street, but he said the township almost never puts flowers on Main Street. He also pointed out an $8,000 allotment for the zoning office to cut lawns. He said he understood why that is a line item in the budget, but the township is typically able to recover those expenses by placing a lien on the property or by fining the offending party.
“Why we’re raising taxes to pay for that – I don’t understand,” Locatell said.
He also expressed his concerns regarding the new hires. Locatell said the additions will significantly increase annual payroll year-over-year for some positions he doesn’t view as entirely necessary.
Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano expressed similar sentiments regarding the new hires. She said given that they’re currently only accounting for six months, those new hire salaries jump up to nearly $500,000 next year. She said that’s already setting them up for another tax increase next year,
She said in her eyes, council could have used surplus to pay for items they knew would be coming off the budget in subsequent years. She said council has had discussions around potentially taking things out of the budget in the future, but she’s not certain how likely that’s going to be.
“Realistically, that almost never happens,” Napolitano said. “I’m always more inclined to add things more judiciously rather than to add to the budget with the thought that maybe we’ll take away in the future.”
Councilman Brian Donnelly said there have been discussions about raising money next year through other means (such as liquor licenses). He said if those additional funds do come to fruition, he’ll be “more than happy” to decrease taxes next year.
“If I’m voting to raise taxes a penny – which is what I’m doing – I’m raising my own taxes,” Donnelly said. “I’m not happy about it any more than anyone else. I’m doing it because it’s what has to be done.”
Ultimately, Locatell and Napolitano voted “no” on the budget while Donnelly, Deputy Mayor Nicole Gillespie and Mayor Lisa Petriello voted “yes.”
The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Town Hall.