City Council adopts 2015 municipal budget

City Council approved a 2015 municipal budget that was largely unchanged from the one presented last month by the administration, carrying with it an average $120 tax increase.

The governing body introduced the budget at its April 13 meeting and approved the $52.5 million spending plan Monday night by a unanimous 8-0 vote (Second Ward Councilman Michael Cox was absent). UPDATED: The 2015 budget can be accessed in its entirety here.

The average home, assessed at $133,000, can expect an increase of $120 (or $30 per quarter) in the municipal portion of their tax bill, for an average municipal tax bill of $3,311. Freeholders last month introduced a Union County budget that projects an average $52 property tax hike countywide; the average tax impact specifically to Rahway is unclear.  The $492-million budget is scheduled for a public hearing and adoption tonight.

The city budget is up 1.9 percent over last year’s $51.8 million while 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 municipal tax rate will rise from $2.39 per $100 of assessed value to $2.49 per $100.

The Special Improvement District (SID) budget, which is expected to grow from $130,000 to about $700,000 this year, typically is approved at the same time as the municipal budget. This year, the governing body is scheduled to introduce the SID budget at a special meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in the Emergency Management Room of City Hall. A public hearing and final approval would come at the June 16 City Council meeting.

There were a few questions at Monday night’s meeting other than some requests from Council members to the administration to  clarify aspects of the tax impact or summarize some revenue items. Two members of the public spoke, questioning some expenses and salaries within General Administration.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier asked about the city’s vacant/foreclosure house registry. While the budget anticipates $40,000 in revenue from the registry, City Administrator Cherron Rountree said it could be closer to $100,000.

Owners must register properties with the city within 14 days of becoming vacant, with an initial registration fee of $500. Registration renewal fees would run $1,500 after the first year, $3,000 for the second renewal and $5,000 for the third and subsequent renewals.

“It’s been very successful for a number of reasons,” she said, with about 70 properties registered. “It helps better monitor property maintenance issues and allows us to be aware when properties are vacant,” Rountree said.

Host community fees for the Union County Resource Recovery Facility (the incinerator) are budgeted for an increase of $150,000, and a minimum of $2.2 million but more like $2.65 million, based on increased tonnage.

Some previous posts regarding the 2015 municipal budget:

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