Chatham Township residents may get a break in their municipal taxes this year, albeit a small one.
Administrator Thomas E. Ciccarone said Thursday that the municipality has proposed a tax rate decrease of 3/10 of a cent. For the average home assessed at $750,000, this would mean a tax decrease of $25.50.
The 2012 tax rate was at 28.8 cents per $100 of assessed value, for a total average municipal tax of $2,152. If the committee votes to approve the budget as proposed, that amount will fall to 28.5 cents per $100.
In 2011 and 2012, the township kept local taxes flat, thanks in a large part to the same things that have allowed them to lower the tax levy in 2013: shared services, ratables within the township and consolidating positions.
Under the state's 2 percent tax levy cap, the township could collect as much as $9,071,185 in local taxes. Instead, Ciccarone proposed a budget with $8,574,639 in taxes, which is $496,546 below the cap.
That amount—$496,546—is available to the township as a cap bank. Within three years the township can add that amount, and other available cap banks from the past two years, to a local budget without requiring a public vote on the budget.
Combined with the cap bank from 2012, the township now has more than $1,000,000 available to them for use before 2015.
Ciccarone said the budget is contingent on state aid remaining flat from 2012 in the mount of $836,467. While the state has not committed to a flat amount of aid, Ciccarone said, "you can take that to the bank."State Aid to Chatham Township 2007-12 2007 $1,256,000 2008 $1,121,000 2009 $1,077,000 2010 $836,467 2011 $836,467 2012 $836,467 Net Change 2007-12 -$419,533
Ciccarone credited shared services, a reduced work force and ratables and unanticipated income, such as the money from cell tower leases, for the decrease.
He also specifically cited state legislation increasing employee contributions to pensions and health insurance benefits. Under those laws, the township has saved more than $50,000 in pension contributions and more than $90,000 in health insurance benefits in 2013 alone.
"Construction activities also continue to be a source of revenue for us," he said, and add value to the tax base.
Ciccarone detailed other taxes collected by the township, which include taxes for the county and the library. Library taxes, he said, have remained under the 2 percent cap, and Morris County has announced a flat or possibly decreased tax levy for 2013 as well.
An overview of the 2013 budget is below.Budget 2012 2013 Difference Surplus Used $2,000,000 $2,100,000 $100,000 Local Misc. $449,000 $432,000 -$17,000 NJ State Payments/Grants $836,467 $836,467 0 Public/Private Programs $38,294 $45,094 $6,800 Delinquent Taxes $565,000 $575,000 $10,000 Construction Code Fees $400,000 $450,000 $50,000 Library Taxes $1,018,969 $987,535 -$31,434 Local Purpose Taxes $8,603,843 $8,585,973 -$17,870 Total Revenues $13,911,573 $14,012,069 $100,496 General Appropriations $12,515,573 $12,577,795 $62,635 Reserve for Uncollected Taxes $1,396,413 $1,434,274 $37,861 Total Appropriations $13,911,573 $14,012,09 $100,496
The budget as proposed is contingent on the township also passing an ordinance lowering the Open Space Tax to 0.5 cents for a third straight year.
The Open Space Tax automatically reverts to two cents each year and can only be lowered by a town ordinance.
Ciccarone said the tax does not need to be at two cents because the town is, for the most part, built out where open space is not available or already preserved, and the township has already acquired properties for preservation such as the Averett Farm.
If any open space should become available, Ciccarone said the township can bond for it and pay the bond from a higher Open Space tax in a later year. However, with major open space purchases behind the township already, no open space is anticipated to become available in 2013.
Out of every dollar township residents pay, Ciccarone said 66 cents goes to the School District of the Chathams, 15 cents goes to Morris County, two cents goes to support the Library of the Chathams and 17 cents goes to the township. Less than one cent goes toward open space.
The township must wait for budgets from the state to be released and hold a public hearing before the municipal budget can be formally approved.