The total proposed Township of West Milford municipal budget for 2022 is $35,027,400. The 2022 tax rate, including the library, open space and garbage portions of the budget, is $1 per $100 assessed valuation.
The municipal tax increase on the average home assessed at $242,000 will be $77.07. This does not include the school district or county tax bill.
A public hearing on the municipal budget portion of residents’ tax bills will be held on May 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal building. Objections may be presented by taxpayers or other interested persons. There will also be a public hearing on the Solid Waste Collection budget.
Township Chief Financial Officer Eileen Mageean summarized expenditures in a power point presentation during a recent Township Council meeting. She said there has been $1,378,013 of the first tranche of the American Rescue Plan money used. The second tranche for the same amount will be received this year and can be utilized through 2024.
The American Rescue Plan gives the municipality a rare opportunity to convert funds born out of a federal spending scheme into a meaningful investment in public safety. State and local officials have until the end of 2024 to spend the money. Congress passed the American Rescue Plan in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act included direct payment to taxpayers and an expenditure of the child tax credit. The US Dept. of Treasury is issuing guidelines telling state and local governments how they can use the money.
Mageean said the amount of grant funds received last year was much higher than previously due to COVID-19. Debt service is down significantly because the municipality paid off its 2010 bonds last year. The CFO said the top expenses are in the areas of Public Safety, Statutory Expenses, Debt Service and Reserve for Uncollected Taxes.
“The Fund Balance is the highest it has ever been and that is a good thing,” Mageean said. “We were not spending as much money during the shutdown. The tax levy cap is under by almost $1 million. The cost of Solid Waste removal continues to rise and as those costs go up, the taxpayers bear the burden. The state does not allow us to reduce our Tax Levy.”
Mayor Michele Dale explained that every time money from surplus is taken a budget deficit is created in the budget the following year. It is not prudent to create a dent in the surplus, she said.