Maplewood introduces $43.6 million 2017 budget

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Though most of Maplewood’s expenses remained relatively flat for 2017, main drivers such as increased pension and debt payments, will leave the average homeowner paying approximately $75 more in property taxes this year than in 2016.

“We’ve worked very hard to get this budget down,” Mayor Vic DeLuca assured residents at the March 21 Maplewood Township Committee meeting.

The committee voted unanimously March 21 to introduce the 2017 Maplewood municipal budget, which comes in at $43.6 million, a slightly more than 4-percent increase from last year, according to DeLuca. With this budget, the average homeowner can expect to pay $3,825 in municipal property taxes, a $75 increase from 2016’s $3,750.

“In a revaluation year, it’s a little hard to figure our your taxes one year to the next because the values are going up and down around town and your individual property may go higher or lower depending on your new assessment and the tax rate,” DeLuca explained, referring to the reassessment conducted by Appraisal Systems Inc. for Maplewood and South Orange this past year. “But we can tell you that the tax rate on average for the homes are only going up by 2 percent.”

It is important to note that municipal property taxes only account for a portion of each property tax bill, with some taxes going to the county and more than half going to the school district.

The 2017 municipal budget comes out to $43,623,516, an increase of $1,129,879 from last year’s budget, according to the budget documents. Of that $43.6 million, budget documents show that $29,654,043, or just under 68 percent, is expected to be raised from taxes.

“The last meeting I read a statement by Moody’s about how our financial condition is in good shape. They talked about our steady operation, our steady management of finances,” DeLuca said, before turning to the flipside. “But, I did want to point out that this year our increase in expenses — these naturally occurring expenses, more money for gas and oil for our vehicles, salary increases, a couple other expenses we had to do here and there — we went up about $1 million in expenses and, if we use the 2-percent figure of our previous year’s tax levy, we could only raise the taxes by about $600,000.”

DeLuca explained that this left a $400,000 gap, which the township was able to fill by dipping into reserves and reallocating funds from previous years that had remained unspent.

“We try to find money so that we don’t have to raise taxes, but at some point that well is going to dry up and we’ve got to be careful here that we don’t create an imbalance,” DeLuca said.

DeLuca also discussed the fact that some expected sources of revenue for 2017 did not materialize.

“One disappointment this year is, we thought we were going to get some revenue from the Avalon Bay development,” DeLuca said. “Now, with the fire that occurred a couple of months ago, that put that off. So that is one pot of money we’ll get next year.”

The Maplewood Township Committee will hold a hearing on the 2017 municipal budget at Town Hall, 574 Valley St. in Maplewood, on Tuesday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m.