With Eye On Taxes, Township Budget Process Begins

Elected Township Committee members reviewed a draft budget with township administration officials on Tuesday at a meeting open to the public.

Elected Township Committee members reviewed a draft budget with township administration officials on Tuesday at a meeting open to the public.

Hazlet’s five elected officials held their first of several meetings Tuesday to work on the township’s municipal budget for the coming year.

As they flipped through their packets of stapled spreadsheets provided by Business Administrator Dennis Pino, they learned there were no huge surprises.

Pino stated that if the budget prepared with the township finance team and department heads were adopted in its current form, it would not cause a tax rate increase.

“We probably trimmed close to $1.3 million on our own,” Pino told the Committee members Mayor Scott Aagre, Deputy Mayor Mike Glackin, Tara Clark, Skip McKay and Michael Sachs.

At the informal Jan. 22 meeting, Pino pointed out some highlights in the financial documents The biggest increase was township salary and wages, up $248,000 from last year, “which is almost typical,” Pino said.

Also going up is pension costs by $104,000, and budgeting for the legal fund, up $150,000, as the township works with its legal team on an affordable housing compliance plan.

Pino said the budget takes into consideration increased health care costs of around 10 percent.

On the revenue side, however, the township is anticipating new ratables from the new Lidl supermarket at 2973 Route 35, and later this year, the Madison Park apartments at 778 Poole Avenue, the Popeyes restaurant coming to 1228-1242 Route 36, and one or two small office buildings.

“We won’t see anything yet from the Kmart Plaza, because they have the five-year (tax) abatement on improvements,” Pino said, referring to the township incentive plan. They are about into their first year,”

McKay and Clark, the newly elected members to the board, asked questions to better understand how the budget was organized, and talked about their ongoing work to research costs for a better municipal website design. Clark said she wanted to find a way to rejuvenate the Shop Hazlet property tax card program and support hometown retailers, and McKay advocated for specific pieces of lifesaving emergency equipment needed by volunteer first responders.

The Township Committee members will study the documents and meet again together several more times to review submitted requests for staffing and budget by township departments before presenting a proposed budget.

Municipal tax accounts for 22 percent of Hazlet’s property tax bill. The district school budget accounts for 62 percent, the county budget 10 percent, the fire district 3 percent, and the remainder includes the county open space fund, county library, municipal open space funds and county health budget.

Last year the $21 million budget, which called for $14 million to be raised by taxation, was introduced on April 17 and adopted by a majority of the governing body following a public hearing on May 15. Prior township budgets can be reviewed on the township website.

Hazlet Township school budgets can be found on the Board of Education website.

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