HAMMONTON – Council members voted 4-3 along party lines to introduce the 2013 town budget late Monday night.

The introduction, however, came only after an initial negative vote, followed by a detailed budget examination and continued sparring over use of water and sewer funds to pay a legal settlement for the whole town.

The $11.46 million spending plan is down slightly from the $11.72 million budget in 2012. But it must raise more by local tax levy — $7.639 million in 2013 compared with $7.176 million last year. That’s an increase of about 6 percent.

Mayor Steve DiDonato said decreases in state aid, and increases in health and pension costs, were the reason for the need to raise more in a municipal tax levy, and for the use of in $1.254 million in surplus funds.

“We have used the surplus to lessen the impact on residents,” DiDonato said. “I don’t believe in raising taxes ... or holding your money as surplus. The money is better in residents’ hands.”

The local tax rate increases about .05, from about $.82 to $.87 per $100 valuation. That means the owner of a home with an average assessed value of $135,652 in 2012, the latest figure available, will pay $1,186 in local taxes in 2013-2014, up $74 from $1,112 last year.

DiDonato said overall taxes paid by Hammonton homeowners, including school and county taxes, will increase only 1.5 percent.

Voting in favor of the introduction both times were Hammonton First members Deputy Mayor Sam Rodio, Dan Bachalis, and Paul Esposito.

Voting against both times were Republican members Anni Carpo, Steve Furgione, and Mickey Pullia, who are up for re-election and are running on a ticket with Hammonton School Board President Joe Giralo for mayor.

Republican members objected to the use of $227,500 from the water and sewer utility budget being used to pay a settlement related to litigation over a polluted dump that has been closed for decades on S. Second Road.

The Republicans also wanted to take a closer look at how much the municipal water and sewer department pays for part-time services from some town employees, and for other expenses shared with the town.

Councilman Steve Furgione pointed out that only about 70 percent of residents are municipal water and sewer users, and it isn’t fair to ask that group to help pay expenses that benefit everyone in town.

DiDonato said the water and sewer users would be made whole, as the funds would be taken as a loan to be repaid with interest over 10 years.

DiDonato is the only Hammonton First member up for re-election. He had broken the tie in the earlier voting on introducing the budget with a no vote, even though he supports the budget. He said then he felt the budget should be introduced with at least a 5-2 supportive vote, and suggested the council members examine it closely, and vote again.

But as the late-night examination of the budget began, he said it became clear to him that Republican members were using the budget for political grandstanding. So he called another vote, and this time cast the deciding 4-3 vote in favor of its introduction.

“I didn’t want it to turn into a political circus,” he said after the meeting.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:

609-272-7219

 

HAMMONTON – Council members voted 4-3 along party lines to introduce the 2013 town budget late Monday night.

The introduction, however, came only after an initial negative vote, followed by a detailed budget examination and continued sparring over use of water and sewer funds to pay a legal settlement for the whole town.

The $11.46 million spending plan is down slightly from the $11.72 million budget in 2012. But it must raise more by local tax levy — $7.639 million in 2013 compared with $7.176 million last year. That’s an increase of about 6 percent.

Mayor Steve DiDonato said decreases in state aid, and increases in health and pension costs, were the reason for the need to raise more in a municipal tax levy, and for the use of in $1.254 million in surplus funds.

“We have used the surplus to lessen the impact on residents,” DiDonato said. “I don’t believe in raising taxes ... or holding your money as surplus. The money is better in residents’ hands.”

The local tax rate increases about .05, from about $.82 to $.87 per $100 valuation. That means the owner of a home with an average assessed value of $135,652 in 2012, the latest figure available, will pay $1,186  in local taxes in 2013-2014, up $74 from $1,112 last year.

DiDonato said overall taxes paid by Hammonton homeowners, including school and county taxes, will increase only 1.5 percent.

Voting in favor of the introduction both times were Hammonton First members Deputy Mayor Sam Rodio, Dan Bachalis, and Paul Esposito.

Voting against both times were Republican members Anni Carpo, Steve Furgione, and Mickey Pullia, who are up for re-election and are running on a ticket with Hammonton School Board President Joe Giralo for mayor.

Republican members objected to the use of $227,500 from the water and sewer utility budget being used to pay a settlement related to litigation over a polluted dump that has been closed for decades on S. Second Road.

The Republicans also wanted to take a closer look at how much the municipal water and sewer department pays for part-time services from some town employees, and for other expenses shared with the town.

Councilman Steve Furgione pointed out that only about 70 percent of residents are municipal water and sewer users, and it isn’t fair to ask that group to help pay expenses that benefit everyone in town.

DiDonato said the water and sewer users would be made whole, as the funds would be taken as a loan to be repaid with interest over 10 years.

DiDonato is the only Hammonton First member up for re-election. He had broken the tie in the earlier voting on introducing the budget with a no vote, even though he supports the budget. He said then he felt the budget should be introduced with at least a 5-2 supportive vote, and suggested the council members examine it closely, and vote again.

But as the late-night examination of the budget began, he said it became clear to him that Republican members were using the budget for political grandstanding. So he called another vote, and this time cast the deciding 4-3 vote in favor of its introduction.

“I didn’t want it to turn into a political circus,” he said after the meeting.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:

609-272-7219