Garbage costs add to tax hike

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    WEST MILFORD-Town council members are amending the proposed municipal budget, including the solid waste component, in an effort to keep costs down while maintaining services. The council met Thursday night, July 22, to discuss the changes. The new budget will minimally increase taxes due to the rising cost of solid waste disposal. The budget faces a public hearing on Aug. 4. The increase comes even though the town is receiving $757,687 in property tax relief from the state as Watershed Moratorium Offset Aid. The state set up the funding as a way for towns with parcels of watershed lands to receive funding to offset a smaller property tax base than other comparable towns. Of the total $2.2 million the state doled out, West Milford is the largest recipient. The council cut almost $1 million from the budget and had planned on dipping into the surplus to ward off tax increases. However, after hearing recommendations from its accountant, the council agreed that surplus spending would be unwise. Without using the surplus or making any more cuts, the council was forced to raise taxes. A home assessed at $130,000 would pay $28 more in taxes this year. The tax increase stems from a $343,000 rise in waste disposal costs, officials said. Mayor Joseph DiDonato reminded the council of the $5 per ton tax that Pennsylvania is now charging for waste disposal. Councilman Bailey suggested that these costs could be kept down if residents recycled more. While cuts to the budget were made across the board, it was the DPW that was hit hardest. Town Clerk Byrnes explained that the $250,000 in cuts from the DPW included eliminating the crack repair program for one year, as well as leaving positions unfilled. Council Members William G. Gervens and Dennis J. Kirwan were outspoken about the need to maintain the roads and personnel levels as the weather gets colder. Gervens insisted that, "if we don't fill the cracks in the roads, every citizen is going to know." The final consensus was that the roads would have to be maintained for fear of future, more costly, damage. The crack repair program will not be cut and money will be made available if more DPW personnel are needed later in the year. Last year the average home in West Milford, assessed at $130,000, paid $1,356 in taxes generated from the three budgets controlled by the council. This year that number would be about $1,384.