Lavallette introduced its 2021 operating budget Monday night with a slight – very slight – property tax increase that it plans on scrapping before final adoption.
The borough’s administration proposed a $9,425,493 spending plan for 2021, representing an increase of about a tenth of one percent over the previous year. For the owner of a home valued at 875,000, the increase would amount to just $8.75 per year – less than a dollar a month – which prompted officials to ask the borough’s professional staff to pare down the plan slightly to keep taxes flat.
“We’ve got to be able to find this money somewhere,” said Councilwoman Joanne Filippone. “I think we can find it someplace and flatten this budget out.”
The budget increased in total by $195,948 over 2020, but the amount to be raised by taxes, $6,090,641, increased by a figure of only $38,879, a 0.39 percent increase. The average total bill for the municipal portion of property taxes in Lavallette would be $2,240 under the plan as introduced.
The borough council unanimously voted to introduce the budget with the caveat that the increase would be eliminated before final adoption. Officials said the borough expects to see an infusion of money from the federal CARES Act to accommodate expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic as well as infrastructure projects. While guidance on how federal dollars must be spent has yet to be issued by the state, it is expected that a number of borough capital projects would qualify for funding. Some of the soft costs related to those projects could be covered, reducing the tax burden on residents, though the stimulus money is not aimed at reducing taxes.
“The one thing that we’re seeing in the comments … is that it can’t be used specifically for tax reduction,” said Borough Attorney Phillip George. “However as Mr. Brice [the borough administrator] said, it appears it will be used to target infrastructure and capital projects, so that money will trickle down to the borough since administrative costs can be assessed.”
The borough capital budget this year amounts to $8,345,000 and includes road improvements, the purchase of equipment and vehicles, public works building renovations, the construction of a living shoreline, boardwalk improvements, the installation of a new well and upgrades to existing wells, plus other maintenance on the water system. it includes projects that may be undertaken in 2022 or 2023.
As for the remainder of this year, all officials agreed that there is no need for a tax increase and the minimal figure proposed will be eliminated.
“Obviously, Lavallette is in very good fiscal condition,” Mayor Walter LaCicero said.