Mandated payments into the state’s pension and benefits systems drove the largest part of what will likely be a small tax increase for Lavallette residents this year.
After several flat budgets, the borough council on Monday night introduced the town’s 2023 spending plan, which will rise from $9,682,703 last year to about $9,878,000 this year, said Borough Administrator John Bennett.
“Unfortunate we had over $100,000 of mandatory increases we had no control over,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero, pointing to state assessments being charged to towns in order to shore up Trenton’s pension and health benefits funds for state employees.
This year, Lavallette saw an increase of $64,000 toward the state pension fund and a $42,000 increase toward state health insurance premiums. The borough also faced some rising costs of its own, having inked a new contract with the Public Works department that produced a $57,000 contractual increase, along with a $40,000 increase in debt service payments.
“We had some salaries go up and some other expenses go down,” Bennett said.
The full budget will be posted on the borough’s website for residents to review, Bennett added, but in basic terms, a resident with a home valued at $875,000, the borough average, would see $87.50 annual increase in municipal property taxes.
“We were under cap on everything, and the tax rate had a one cent increase,” said Bennett.
The total budget included a 1.84 percent increase, under the state’s 2 percent cap, however surplus revenue was utilized to keep the tax increase to a minimum.
“The last three years we have been flat, and this year we took all of the excesses out of the budget,” said LaCicero. “I think our community is famous for having low taxes, and that’s because we’re pretty stingy up here, we look at everything.”
Lavallette, in 2022, had the lowest municipal property tax rate in the entire state, according to fiscal data.
The borough council will hold a required hearing on the budget at its April 3 meeting, at which time the council will vote on whether to finally adopt the plan. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the council chambers in borough hall.