Average municipal tax hike projected at $120

A loss of almost $900,000 in revenue from the state’s red light camera pilot program is among the biggest hits to the 2015 municipal budget, which projects a 3.7-percent tax hike.

City Council introduced the 2015 municipal budget at its April 13 meeting, with a public hearing and final adoption scheduled on May 11. The governing body typically approves on the Special Improvement District (SID) budget at the same meeting as the municipal budget.

The $52.5 million spending plan is up 1.9 percent over last year’s $51.8 million. The tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — is up 3.73 percent, about $1.3 million from $34.781 million to $36.07 million.

The average home in Rahway, assessed at $133,000, would see a projected $120 increase (about $30 per quarter) in the municipal portion of their tax bill. Last year’s budget projected an increase of $43, or about $11 per per quarter. The $120 hike for the average home would increase last year’s average municipal taxes of $3,191 to $3,311 (this is only the municipal portion of your tax bill; not including county or school taxes).

Chief Financial Officer Frank Ruggiero told council members that the budget will now go to the state for technical review and is property of the governing body for the next month, until it comes up for a public hearing. Once the council passes it, the budget goes back to the administration.

The city’s 2014 budget allocated $1.2 million in revenue from the state’s red light camera program and realized $893,826. The pilot program ended in December.

Some other swings on the revenue side include reserve for FEMA reimbursement, which was $192,158 last year and zero this year. But  the reserve for insurance reimbursements will be $698,544, for a difference of $506,386 on the plus side. There’s also $500,000 less in the use of surplus anticipated, down from $3 million to $2.5 million.

Other items on the anticipated revenues side:

* $40,000 is budgeted from vacant/foreclosure house registration, which was created last year.

* Hotel taxes are budgeted at $125,000 after $129,233 was collected in 2014, almost 30 percent more than the $100,000 budgeted. That could be result of the new Home2Suites that opened just off Routes 1&9 in late 2013, although the former Hotel Indigo remains vacant.

I’ll take a closer look at the expenses side of things in a future post.

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