Council tentatively cuts half of proposed budget increase

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WEST MILFORD – Township Council members tentatively cut a proposed 8-cent per $100 of assessed valuation increase in the tax rate by about half Monday night.

During the special budget meeting, the governing body reduced the proposed $2.3 million increase by about $1.1 million.

The cuts included not making any new hires this year and cutting the number of new police cars from 10 to five.

The initial budget proposed by Consultant Bob Casey increased spending by around 7% compared to last year, increasing the budget by $2.3 million to $36 million.

Many of the increases had to do with hiring new positions in line with a $65,000 Matrix efficiency study conducted last year.

Those hires were included in order to compliment efficiencies found in the study, such as making the town’s website more interactive and able to fill out forms online.

By not approving the hires, the council also cut expenses for the new employees benefits and other obligations.

Other areas that increased spending included the addition of $120,000 in salary for a full time township administrator.

Township Clerk Antoinette Battaglia had filled that roll for a $38,000 annual stipend for the last several years, but was terminated in December from that function.

Casey said the council could just budget for half of that cost, $60,000, because it’s not likely the position would be filled before June.

The council also cut $208,000, or half of the police department’s request for 10 new vehicles.

Chief Tim Storbeck said the new vehicles were needed due to the mileage and wear on his “front line” vehicles.

Once the vehicles go over 100,000 miles, they are usually taken off regular patrol duty, he said.

The reason for the large number this year, he said, was because the council did not purchase any new vehicles last year.

Council members are trying to bring the tax rate increase down to 0, and will likely continue cutting the plan before formally adopting it.

Currently, the increase is around 4-cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or about $175 for the owner of an average house assessed at about $242,000.

In addition to cuts in the proposed operating budget, the council also cut down the amount of spending in the capital budget to keep new bond spending in line with the amount of debt retired this year.

Casey said the township retires around $3.1 million in debt each year and the new bonds should only equal that amount.

With a bond for $465,000 already going forward, the town can bond for about another $2.5 million to keep within that self-imposed cap, Casey said.

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