Maplewood to see 1.96-percent tax increase

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood residents can expect to see a tax increase, according to the preliminary 2016 municipal budget, which was introduced at the March 15 Township Committee meeting.

According to budget documents, the township’s Finance Committee is proposing a $41.5 million operating budget for 2016. The first reading of the preliminary budget was approved unanimously by the Township Committee.

“I’m happy to report that all this work has paid off, as tonight we are introducing a 2016 budget with a tax rate increase of 1.96 percent — (which is) under the statutory 2-percent limit — for the average home assessed at $397,000 that amounts to an $82 increase for the year or about 22 cents each day,” Mayor Vic DeLuca said at the March 15 meeting.

According to DeLuca, cost drivers include a 2-percent salary increase for public employees, a 14-percent increase in group health insurance premiums and an 8-percent increase in bond principal payment. He also explained that Maplewood saw a decrease in taxable properties, but an increase in ratables.

“We ended this year with an $8.6 million net reduction in taxable properties primarily driven by a $15 million reduction in the value of Winchester Gardens,” DeLuca said. “Luckily, new ratables helped cushion that loss.”

He added that, of the $1 million earned by the township in the sale of the former post office property, only $300,000 will be used, with the rest remaining in the reserve fund in order to keep taxes from increasing too much in the coming years.

“On the capital side, we are continuing our longstanding practice of only incurring 80 percent of the debt we are retiring,” DeLuca said. “Even with that, in the year’s capital budget we’ve included a purchase of a firetruck, a jitney bus and a much-needed front-loader for our Department of Public Works.”

DeLuca also assured that with this budget, the township will be maintaining the two police officer positions added in 2015, and will add two firefighters. In addition, the township has been making improvements at The Woodland; installed new windows at the Hilton Branch library; approved the purchase of 45 body cameras for Maplewood police officers, and engaged in various road and sewer improvement projects.

The township will hold a public hearing on the preliminary 2016 municipal budget on April 19 at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

The Township Committee also unanimously passed two ordinances on first reading to approve the preliminary 2016 budgets for the Maplewood Village Alliance Special Improvement District budget and for the Springfield Avenue Special Improvement District budget.

Township Clerk Liz Fritzen assured that all property owners within the two SIDs will receive written notification of the budgets being passed on first reading, a copy of the budgets and notice of the hearing date, which will be May 3 for both SIDs.