Clark Council Introduces 2013 Budget With 4.5 Tax Point Increase
The budget is now down from a six-point increase discussed weeks ago.
At Tuesday night's Clark Council meeting, members voted to introduce the 2013 budget.
The budget shows a 4.5-point tax increase, which equates to a $45 increase per $100,000 in home assessment. At council's first February meeting, they discussed a budget with a six-point increase, but Business Administrator John Laezza has since whittled the budget by a point and a half.
The total amount to be raised by taxes (including the minimum library tax) for 2013 is $15,194,849 – an increase of $277,435 over last year.
Laezza told Patch this budget reflects $180,000 in emergency appropriations for Hurricane Sandy and a significant increase in pay-down of the town's debt service, about $400,000 more than 2012. These costs are somewhat offset by Clark's lowered bill from the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority, a reduction of $196,000. This is the third consecutive year Clark has seen a reduction in sewer use charges; Clark's reduction this year was the biggest reduction of all RVSA member communities.
"The reduction equates to about two tax points," said Laezza. "We figured it was better to reimburse citizens through property taxes with that rebate."
Mayor Sal Bonaccorso explained why he felt the debt service move was a smart one.
"We had bond money borrowed for one percent or less coming due that we could either roll into a long-term bond or we could do the very responsible thing in paying it off and getting it off our books," said Bonaccorso. "It's a smart recommendation to clear up some debt. No one likes to pay more, but why pay $600,000 for that $400,000 15 years from now? Municipal debt is way of functioning in government. Every town has debt and we are nowhere near our ceiling; we're keeping it manageable."
Bonaccorso added that Hurricane Sandy cost Clark $500,000 and he hopes the town will get $300,000 back from FEMA.
"But in the meantime, we have to have the money to pay our bills," he said.
Council also voted to introduce an ordinance to establish a cap bank, which allows Clark to bank the difference between its final 2013 appropriations and the amount the town could have spent up to Gov. Chris Christie's two-percent cap (an additional $586,976). This allows council to exceed budget appropriations if need be and dip into the cap bank.
"This will give us sufficient capabilities to meet emergencies," said Laezza. "It's just a safety measure on behalf of council, and we haven't needed to use it before."
The cap bank ordinance will have its public hearing on March 4. The budget will have its public hearing on April 15.
See a PDF of the full budget in our gallery, right. These numbers reflect only the municipal budget and do not include the 2013 school budget or county tax increases.