GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Officials pointed to a loss of ratables, an abundance of tax appeals and loss in tax revenue when they presented a $24 million budget Tuesday that comes with a 6 percent increase to the tax rate.
As of last week, the township had about 1,200 tax appeals for last year and is expecting about 2,000 this year, township Manager Arch Liston said. The township lost $90 million in ratables last year, Councilman Brian Tyrrell.
The proposed budget’s reserve for uncollected taxes is almost $1.7 million, up from about $1 million in last year’s budget.
If there is a homeowner who is not paying taxes the municipality is still responsible for making those payments and it must be included in the municipal budget, Mayor Don Purdy said.
“It’s bittersweet to have to see any increase at all,” Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola said of the tax rate. “Despite a $90 million decrease in ratables, if it wasn’t for tax appeals the budget would be flat.”
The local tax rate will increase by 2.93 cents, from 45.1 cents to a flat 48 cents per $100 of assessed value, Liston said. With the increase, the owners of the average assessed home, which Liston said is $218,000, will see their municipal tax bill increase about $63 for the year, from $983 to $1,046.
The amount does not include school, county and other property taxes.
Liston said the budget is well under the state mandated 2 percent cap and also under the cap on taxation and appropriations.
Councilman Jim McElwee told the council and audience that the state mandates that municipalities cannot increase their budget by more than 2 percent under state law and it’s difficult to maintain that.
“There’s a lot of stuff built into this budget that the state makes us do that we have no choice,” Councilman Jim Gorman said.
The budget does not provide for employee layoffs or furlough days, and even though there’s a slight increase, it’s definitely the best position the township has been in in a long time, Coppola said.
Under operating expenses, salaries and wages in the budget are $8.4 million, down from $8.8 million last year.
The township also has thinned employee numbers in the last year from 145 total in 2012 to 123 in 2013, according to the proposed budget. Liston said he sat for many hours with the unions of township employees while preparing the budget.
The total budget is proposed at $24 million, down from the 2012 total budget of $25.8 million.
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