The havoc Hurricane Sandy created along the Jersey Shore also contributed to delays in the completion of some municipal budgets.
Officials in Little Egg Harbor and Stafford townships continue to work on storm recovery while also working to finish their budgets so they can be sent to the state Division of Local Government Services.
Sandy is responsible for damage to about 4,000 homes in Little Egg Harbor Township and almost 4,600 homes in Stafford Township.
Little Egg Harbor Township Administrator Garrett Loesch said because of the hurricane, he did not start most of the work on the budget until January. Work usually begins in the fall.
“We were too busy documenting and doing our FEMA expenses. All the expenses from the storm had to be documented so I could apply for aid. Some of what we sent in to FEMA was four binders and a box full of documents,” Loesch said.
Loesch said that usually by Jan. 1 he has a working copy of the budget in the computer, but that was not the case this year. He was out in the field assisting with storm recovery rather than in the office.
There is no date yet set by the township for the budget to be introduced, Loesch said.
“If you’d ask me 10 days ago I would have said it was coming Thursday, but that isn’t happening,” Loesch said early last week. “I am confident that by the end of the month it will be introduced.”
He said he intends to hand-deliver the township’s budget documents to the state to see that they get on the right desk.
When the storm hit, Loesch said the township executed a special emergency note to cover expenses while waiting for reimbursements.
Earlier this month, the township finished its application for a FEMA community disaster loan, and that had to be worked into the budget, he said. The township qualified for $4.3 million over a four-year period, he said.
“The bulk of it comes from the estimated tax-revenue loss for the coming year following Hurricane Sandy. Our goal is to be solvent again and take care of what needs to be taken care of down here,” he said.
Tammori C. Petty spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, said 38 municipalities that have applied for community disaster loans from the Federal Emergency Management Agency received an extension to introduce and adopt budgets.
“The extension is necessary so they can determine what amount of funds they may anticipate as part of their budget process,” Petty said. “We expect that application process to be winding down by mid-May. Most towns that have applied for funding are appropriately utilizing the extension.”
There is no specific deadline for the extension. Petty said. She could not provide a list of towns that have not yet submitted a budget because that information is not tracked, but said most towns that were adversely impacted by the storm have not yet introduced their budgets.
Without an extension, the deadline for adoption of 2013 municipal budgets is April 26, according to Department of Community Affairs website.
Stafford Township Administrator Jim Moran said the municipal budget is not complete, but will be finished shortly. Stafford also has applied for a FEMA community disaster loan.
“We’re trying to figure our funding that will have the least impact on taxpayers as a result of the storm. The state has told us not to worry about it because they have plenty of budgets to look at while they’re waiting for ours,” Moran said.
During the past five months, with so much activity related to storm recovery in the township, it was hard to focus on the budget, he said.
“We were spending inordinate amounts of time just working on FEMA documents so we could get reimbursements. In bigger towns you have more help, but in small towns there’s only so many hands. It’s just me here and it’s just Garrett’s down in Little Egg,” Moran said.
The budget is expected to be introduced next month, but Moran said that is hardly late.
“When I first came in here to work, the budget wasn’t introduced until August under the previous administration. I’ve introduced all my budgets since then the first week of April, and that’s how I would like to have it done,” he said.
In Stafford Township, there is no question there will be a tax increase, Moran said. Some of the increase will be related to the storm, depending on how much money is received from the federal community disaster relief loan. The township also faces regular increases in operational expenses, he said.
Shore towns in Atlantic County were less delayed by Hurricane Sandy when it came to submitting their municipal budgets to the state.
In Ventnor, City Administrator Toro Aboderin said the budget was submitted to the state last month, after it was introduced during a public meeting.
“The state typically gives leeway, but we didn’t need any extra time because of the storm,” Aboderin said.
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