Maplewood taxes increased by 1.92 percent

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Township Committee introduced a $45 million municipal budget for 2018 at its March 20 meeting; this budget will increase taxes by 1.92 percent, which is under the 2-percent state cap.

The budget comes in at $45,006,883, which is $359,868.35 more than the 2017 budget. According to budget documents, $28,444,234 in the budget will be raised through taxes. While last year’s tax rate was $7.70 per thousand, this year’s proposed rate is $7.85 per thousand. According to Mayor Vic DeLuca, the average homeowner, with a house worth approximately $497,500, will see an increase of $78.17, or approximately 21 cents each day.

“The township committee spent nearly 15 hours discussing the budget,” DeLuca said at the meeting. “We believe that this is a good budget; it is a sound budget.”

According to DeLuca, while the township attempted to keep expenses the same, there were areas that needed more money.

“Some of the cost drivers of our expenses: We put more money into storm cleanup … and that was approximately $100,000,” DeLuca said. “We put $80,000 more in our recycling program. Our health insurance and liability insurance went up $90,000 and our pension payments went up $170,000. Of course, our employee salaries went up as per our contractual obligations with our employees.”

This year’s proposed budget also accounts for four more full-time employees than last year’s budget.

Despite these increases, the township is also expecting some revenue gains from recent redevelopment and grants.

“On the revenue side, we’re going to receive $150,000 this year from the rental of The Woodland — it is a nice revenue stream for us,” DeLuca said. “We’ll be getting $300,000 from the payment in lieu of taxes from the Avalon Bay communities; this is the first time we are getting any payment on the improvement. And we received a $600,000 grant from the state for paving.”

The proposed budget is also leaving a cushion in the fund balance, which will help the town’s credit rating.

“We are using $2.1 million in our fund balance and the big news is we are leaving over $2 million in our fund balance,” DeLuca said. “We’ve never had that before. We’ve generally used as much as we’ve had; we’ve had very, very thin margins. With interest rates going up, it is very important that our credit rating is as high as possible and having a sound fund balance will help with that.”

The committee passed the budget on introduction with a vote of 5-0, and will hold a public hearing on the budget prior to voting on final reading Tuesday, April 17.