Proposed Union budget would hike average tax bill $50

UNION, NJ — A preliminary budget proposal for 2018 shows the municipal tax could increase a homeowner’s property tax bill by $50 for an average home assessed at $45,600.

The increase would bring the annual average property tax bill up to $3,167 this year.
Only one local resident attended a March 27 hearing for the proposed $97.5 million budget, an increase from last year of about $2.4 million, or around 2.54 percent. That number includes all local revenues, the local tax levy, state aid and grants.

“Maintaining the township’s AA-plus bond rating, that’s extremely important,” assistant business administrator Tammie Kopin said at the hearing. “(And) ensuring that we meet all of the best practices under the state guidelines so that we can continue to get 100 percent of our state aid.”

The municipal tax levy will increase by about 2 percent, or about $1.4 million. That would keep the township under the 2 percent restriction of tax levy by about $1.45 million under the proposal.

If a municipality does not increase the tax levy by 2 percent for one year, the unused percentage is automatically reserved or “banked” for possible use during the next three years. The rule could allow the municipal tax levy to increase by more than 2 percent some years.
There were no cuts to services in this year’s budget, officials said at the hearing. The increase includes a down payment on the capital improvement fund and the payment on bond principals. Police and fire salary, wages and pensions also saw increases.

Thirty-six percent of the overall budget would go toward the police and fire departments, while 18 percent would go toward insurance costs. Another 15 percent of the budget would go toward government services, including administrative offices, Union TV34 and technology services.
The township decreased its use of a surplus from 79 percent to 67 percent, which is pivotal to Moody Standard and Poor’s rating, Kopin said.

Last year’s property tax increase was $62 dollars for the average home, the budget presentation showed.

Municipal taxes account for about 36 percent of residents’ property tax rate.

The school district could make up about 46 percent of property taxes, although the local school board hasn’t yet approved its upcoming budget. The rest is comprised of county taxes and the library tax.

Under the budget, the township hopes to complete infrastructure projects, pave 84 roads, improve communication methods with residents, upgrade public safety equipment and more.

“A budget isn’t really just about numbers,” Kopin said at the hearing. “There’s policy and decision making and guidelines and goals that go into the framework for developing your budget. We take all of that into account and we base the development of that budget off of those goals.”

The recommended budget is set for adoption by the Union Township Committee this month.