On Tuesday night, Maplewood Township Committee members agreed to adjustments to a draft 2012 municipal budget that would allow them to introduce the budget in ordinance form at the rate of a 2% tax levy increase over the 2011 budget.
Committee members made the decision on March 6 to increase use of the current fund surplus by $301,000, increase use of capital fund surplus by $200,000, and apply $740,000 from the sale of town-owned property at 125 Dunnell Road (the former police station site) in order to close a gap that would have set the tax levy above the state-mandated 2% level. The town does have adjustments and banked cap that it could apply, allowing it to raise the levy above the 2% level.
Although Township Administrator Joseph Manning and Town CFO Peter Fresulone had previously cautioned the town's elected officials that dipping into surplus again to close budget gaps could negatively impact the town's bond rating, Manning publicly expressed satisfaction with the budget Tuesday night.
"Are you a happy camper, Joe?" asked Mayor Vic DeLuca.
"I'm a happy camper," said Manning.
DeLuca had just explained the use of surplus as particularly appropriate in this case: "Essentially our bond payment and interest really jumps this year and essentially the sale of the police building is paying that down."
"This will bring us to 2% which is our goal."
Earlier in the meeting, the Township Committee had made other adjustments to the budget, cutting $75,000 in personnel requests and refusing requests for increased funding to the town's two special improvement districts.
Committeeman Jerry Ryan said he had felt that the SIDs, particularly the Springfield Avenue Partnership, had made a "good case" for requested increases. (The partnership had requested an $10,000 increase over its $20,000 allocation to provide maintenance to newly installed landscaping.) However, DeLuca said, "We have significant budget problems. It is difficult to see increasing their appropriation by 50%." The mayor said he would be amenable to the request "if times were better," but, as it was, he felt that the SIDs would be benefiting from a town-sponsored study and that "they can tinker with their assessment level which hasn't been raised in a few years."
Later, Manning explained that the 2% tax levy increase would translate into a $67.60 increase in local taxes from 2012 over 2011 to the average Maplewood household -- valued at $422,000.
The budget will be introduced at the Township Committee's March 20 meeting.