Mayor Skudera's 2012 Budget Address to the Borough Council

 

Continued Fiscal Discipline

Stability and Long-Range Planning 

 

I am pleased to formally transmit my third budget to the Borough Council since becoming Mayor. I am very proud of the many accomplishments that we have collectively achieved over the past three years despite an overwhelmingly challenging economic climate, new state laws, increased government mandates and the closure of Fort Monmouth which has resulted in costly tax appeals.

 

However, due to fiscal discipline, cost saving measures and our sharp focus on providing core municipal services, such as police protection, trash and recycling pick-up, snow removal and maintaining our municipal roadways, the Borough of Tinton Falls is turning around and is well positioned for the future.  My administration’s strategic planning and long-range focus has saved the taxpayers money while increasing the level and quality of services that our residents demand. 

 

Stability

During my tenure as Mayor, the municipal tax levy has been as stable as it has ever been, averaging just a little more than 2% per year. In contrast, the prior administration’s tax levy increased by an average of 12% at this point.

 

Municipal Tax Levy - the amount of money that each property owner pays annually to fund the borough's municipal budget.  

 

For 2010, 2011, and 2012, the municipal tax levy has been as stable as it has ever been.

 

We continue to spend money wisely and not grow government beyond its means by focusing on the delivery of core government services to residents.  We have continuously replenished and added much needed funding to the Borough’s cash surplus. We have repaired the borough’s roads, infrastructure, and equipment; providing the funding to steer our Borough away from continued neglect.

 

Since 2010, the tax levy has been averaging just a little more than 2% per year. In contrast, the prior administration's tax levy increased by an average of 12% at this point.

 

 

Even when the economy was strong -- during the years 2002 through 2005, the average tax levy still increased by an average of 9%.

 

Cost Drivers

This year, my proposed budget calls for an increase in the municipal tax levy that conforms to the Governor’s 2% cap law and is less than the current rate of inflation. This increase is partially due to higher costs for goods and services, flat State aid funding, contractual salary increases and a 10% State-mandated increase in employee health benefits. 

 

Additionally, we are experiencing a spike in tax appeal judgments that are anticipated to increase since the complete closure of Fort Monmouth last year.  The most significant of these tax appeals are the result of increasing vacancies in commercial office and industrial properties previously occupied by private contractors working for the Army. The Borough bears 100% of the burden of refunds from tax appeal judgments even though it only receives less and a quarter of each refunded tax dollar. 

 

For 2012, we are continuing to rebuild our cash reserves after being recklessly depleted to only $46,000 just before I became Mayor. We are continuing to invest in the Borough’s essential infrastructure that has been neglected for years, repairing and repaving streets, fixing sewer lines and stormwater facilities. We have also provided the needed funding for new police and emergency management equipment. We are replacing the Borough’s aging public works vehicles and upgrading our parks. Additionally, we are investing in new technologies and innovative ways to increase productivity and efficiency, while reducing long-term costs. 

 

Cost Savings

Last year the Borough’s budget was reduced for the first time in decades. On average, even including my 2012 proposed budget, taxes have remained low. 

 

Last year, my administration cut approximately $1 million in municipal spending and, for example, through my Administration's renegotiation of all collective bargaining agreements and other personnel changes, we cut nearly $700,000 in salaries and wages in one year.  Further savings have been achieved through the refinancing of our debt and taking advantage of record low interest rates. Additionally, our decision to increase employee’s health benefit contributions and cap sick leave payouts has further reduced the burden for the taxpayers of Tinton Falls. Additionally, a majority of departmental budgets have remained frozen or have been decreased. 

 

We continue to seek ways to increase the utilization of shared services with our neighboring municipalities while working closely, quickly, and proactively with FMERA to seek smart growth on the former Fort Monmouth property and return some of the ratable base that the Borough lost due to the Fort’s closure. 

 

Tax Proportions

Last year the municipal tax, which is the only portion of your property taxes that the Mayor and Council are directly responsible for was just 23.48% of your total tax bill.  The Board of Education, both elementary and high school accounts for 57.16% of your property taxes, while the Monmouth County government is 16.04% and the Fire District is 3.32% of your property tax bill.

 

Last year the municipal tax, which is the only portion of your property taxes that the Mayor and Council are directly responsible for was just 23.48% of your total tax bill.

 

Conclusion

To continue to keep taxes low for the Tinton Falls taxpayers, we must continue to spend money wisely and plan for the future.  Additionally, we must continue to foster sustainable economic growth in the Borough to make up for the losses we have sustained with the closing of Fort Monmouth. 

 

With these priorities in mind, which I believe to be in the best interests of the Borough's taxpayers, my Administration looks forward to assisting the governing body in its budget deliberations in the coming weeks. 

 

Respectfully Submitted, 

 

Mayor Michael Skudera

Borough of Tinton Falls

County of Monmouth

February 7, 2012