Preliminary budget projects $43 tax hike

The City Council on Monday night introduced a $51.83-million budget for 2014 that would increase the municipal portion of the average property tax bill by about $43.

A public hearing and final approval is scheduled at the City Council’s April 14 regular meeting. In the meantime, the budget will be sent to the state for technical review, Chief Financial Officer Frank Ruggiero told council members Monday night. He described it as a very aggressive budget that increases taxes about 1 percent over last year, staying under a state-imposed 2 percent cap. UPDATE: A copy of the budget can be found here.

budgetOf the average $43 increase, Ruggiero said about $12 can be attributed to the city’s loss of ratables, which dropped from $1.455 billion to $1.449 billion as a result of successful tax appeals. Increased debt service also contributed somewhat to the tax increase, he said.

The municipal portion of the average property tax bill is expected to increase from $3,148 to $3,191 for 2014. The tax rate would rise to 2.399 per $100 of assessed value.

The average assessed home in Rahway, at $133,000, so a home assessed at $266,000 can expect an $86 increase, and likewise, a home assessed at $66,500 will see an increase of more than $21. Keep in mind, this is only the municipal portion of the tax bill; there’s still the school portion, which voters will vote on in April vote on in November if it exceeds the 2-percent cap, and typically the largest, and the county portion of tax bills.

Union County last week introduced a county budget that anticipates an average increase of about $84 for the average home countywide. What that means specifically for the average Rahway home is unclear.

The overall budget is about 2 percent higher than last year’s spending plan while the tax levy will see an increase of just less than 1 percent.

The state-allowed cap on appropriations allowed for the city to spend as much $44.282 million but it came in about $2.9 million less at $41.34 million. The tax levy of $33.88 million is almost 3 percent lower than the state-allowable cap of as much as $34.882 million.

The lone question by City Council members came from Fifth Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier, who asked whether not going to the allowed 2-percent cap might put the city at risk in the future. Ruggiero replied that it’s important to strike a balance between the impact on taxpayers in one year with future years.

Last year’s budget included several one-time revenues, including $1.5 million as a result of a settlement with the Union County Utilities Authority (UCUA). The city also received an increase from the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA) of nearly $600,000, from $3.183 million to $3.74 million, roughly 17.5 percent.