No municipal tax increase for 2010

In a 3 – 2 vote, the SLH Borough Council narrowly defeated a proposed budget amendment that would have raised taxes by an approximate $35.00 per household.

The proposal was a hold over from the initial draft budget submitted by Councilman John Brennan when he held the post of Chair to the Council’s Finance Committee. New committee Chair, Councilwoman Patricia Cindea, revived the idea for discussion purposes.

At a recent meeting, Democratic candidate for Council John E. Tully reprimanded the Council for proposing to spend the Borough’s surplus fund by $660,000.  In Mr. Tully’s opinion, this represented “reckless spending.”

However, if the Borough does not spend its budget surplus, it must raise taxes to meet its financial obligations for the upcoming year.

By spending down the budget surplus, Councilwoman Cindea crafted a zero-tax-increase budget for 2010. This includes all contractually-obligated pay raises; employees without contracts will not receive raises.

A recently circulated petition sought to overturn contracted raises, a move which Councilwoman Cindea fears will result in increased legal fees. If the Borough breaks contracts with its employees, it can be sued. Councilwoman Cindea estimates that the petition has already cost the town approximately $27,000 in unanticipated legal fees. It was her concern over these fees that led her to proposing a possible tax increase, noting that Councilman Brennan had already made this suggestion when he proposed his draft budget.

The Council previously discussed a possible tax increase at its July 19 meeting, but Councilmen Brennan and Gavino Maccanico did not attend the meeting. To allow for their input, Councilwoman Cindea again raised the issue for discussion.

Although he had initially proposed the $35.00 tax increase, Councilman Brennan voted no to amend the budget, along with Councilman Maccanico and Councilwoman Sara King. Councilwomen Cindea and Lynn Kegelman both voted yes. Councilwoman Kathleen Crippen was absent from the meeting due to a family medical emergency. However, at the July 19 meeting, Councilwoman Crippen noted that with the County and fire district increases, “…the Borough’s senior citizens will already have trouble paying the increase. I don’t think we want to add to their burden.”

Monmouth County taxes will rise by approximately $56.00 per household. The fire district tax will rise by approximately $4.00 per household. This amount is based on an average SLH home assessment of $450,000. Homes assessed at a higher rate will pay slightly higher increases.

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