BRIGANTINE — City Council was presented with options for the 2013 budget at Wednesday’s meeting, with tax increases that ranged from 2.1 cents to 6.2 cents.
Members of council were informed by staff that the it could face a deficit between $2 million and $3 million next year. Manager Jennifer Blumenthal presented council members with multiple budget options but warned the more they cut for the 2013 fiscal year budget, the worse shape the city will be in over the next few years.
The 6.2-cent-increase option would mean the least amount of services affected and surplus of city accounts used. Other options discussed, including a proposal with a 2.1-cent increase, would mean reducing hours of operation at the recycling plant, fewer services for the Public Works Department and beach maintenance, and freezes on spending on equipment.
Layoffs were not discussed during the meeting. Blumenthal said afterward that they are a possibility.
The manager recommended the 6.2-cent increase to the council.
“The further you reduce the tax increases, the less conservative you become,” she said.
Blumenthal said she already anticipates a shortfall of between $2 million and $3 million for the 2014 budget, and if the city chooses the smaller tax increase this year, the shortfall could become $4 million next year. The city would have difficulty closing that shortfall if officials choose to reduce the budget this year because of state laws restricting the amount the budget can grow each year, she said.
A 6.2-cent increase would mean the municipal tax rate would be 55.2 cents.
The owner of the average assessed property in Brigantine of $499,316 would pay $2,756 in city property taxes, an increase of $320 from last year.
The council set up a special budget meeting for March 14 to discuss the proposals further. Mayor Philip J. Guenther said the process is still early and everything is being considered. The council must present its budget at the March 20 council meeting.
Residents at the meeting said the 6.2-cent increase would be burdensome to residents — many of whom are dealing with costs due to damage from Hurricane Sandy last year.
The council is also considering a proposal to merge the roles of the city’s beach patrol, fire and police chiefs into one public safety director position, but representatives of those units said at the meeting the measure would not save money and the new position would not have the same level of command over the departments.
The city could also be affected by tax appeals this year — especially from properties affected by Sandy, Blumenthal said. Council members said they will advertise some city properties for sale to try to get some additional revenue for next year.
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