The Guttenberg Town Council adopted its $17.2 million 2012 municipal budget at its regular meeting this past Tuesday. The budget is up $709,793 over last year. The tax levy, to be raised from local taxation, has been raised nearly two percent over last year’s levy to $12,440,535.
“A less than two percent increase in the tax levy shows that we try to keep everything as stable as we can,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff.
The budget increase, according to Drasheff, was due to increases in contract raises for police, unionized employees, insurance costs and debt service (money borrowed to repair streets and sewers). Overall, the council decided on an increase slightly over four percent for the total budget.
The 2012 municipal tax rate under this budget is $15.53 of assessed valuation (increase of 29 cents). Municipal taxes are one of three parts of the overall tax rate, which also includes school and county taxes.
Rising costs of city services
According to Drasheff, what has increased the budget and raised the tax levy seems to be a combination of the rising costs for city services, including contract raises for the police department. Recently those contracts were settled with an average raise of three-and-a-half percent per year.
The expanded budget also developed from the need to unionize employees in certain sectors as well as offset insurance costs, and from the increased amount of debt service for the city.
“We probably pay considerably less for comparable jobs than almost any other town in Hudson County.” – Mayor Gerald Drasheff
Other plans for city services that require an increase in the budget and the tax levy include major projects, such as a new recreation and community center and an expansion for the schools. Drasheff said that these facilities are sorely needed and that the money must be put aside in a capital fund.
“There’s money available to put into the school that isn’t available for us to put towards the town,” Drasheff noted. He noted that the capital fund for the school expansion will not be part of the tax levy, as the money is already going into this fund.
The facility, he said, will be used for classrooms and school activities during the daytime. “At three o’clock, it becomes a community center that’ll be used by all of the residents, senior citizens, and kids,” Drasheff explained.
This is the second consecutive year that Guttenberg has produced a budget based on the calendar year instead of the fiscal year. It seems as though, for the town, this is a better method of production, as increases in taxes are not finalized or as harsh as they would be if the budget had been decided during the fiscal year.
Drasheff said, “We don’t know for sure yet what the county tax levy is. The county has not approved the budget yet. There is a good possibility that the county tax levy could be a little less.” This would give Guttenberg residents some relief if the county freeholders make reductions.
The town plans on working closely with the school board to control cost throughout the area so that, Drasheff noted, bringing up additional ratables over the next few years might offset increases in costs and taxes.
Drasheff is optimistic about Guttenberg’s future as far as the monetary options are concerned. “Now is the time to [complete projects, as] the cost of borrowing is very low and the cost of construction is very competitive.”
In keeping with Memorial Day, Vietnam Veteran Marcello Gomez was recognized for his years of service. Gomez stood as Mayor Drasheff read through accolades from his years on duty.
Victor Conversano, a retired Guttenberg police captain, was also another honoree for his work with the Guttenberg police. His son Victor Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps, was also present. Victor Jr. retired from the force as a lieutenant.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at email@example.com