WILDWOOD — The city introduced its 2012 budget Wednesday, the last of the state’s 566 municipalities to do so.
“No one hates it more than me,” Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said of that distinction.
But he said he is optimistic that after this year the city will be in a much better financial position in 2013.
“Hopefully we’ll be introducing it first (in 2013),” Troiano said.
City officials said this year’s budget should total about $27 million, and will be supported by a tax levy of a little more than $17 million, a decrease from the 2011 levy of $17.1 million.
“We renegotiated contracts, through retirements, a lot of restricted spending and have recurring revenue. We just made sure we buckled down,” Troiano said. “We worked very hard on this.”
As introduced, the budget also calls for no increase in the local purpose tax rate of $1.088 per $100 of assessed valuation.
If that figure remains unchanged, the total tax rate for city residents, including county, library, open space and school taxes, would come to $1.936 per $100 of assessed value.
City auditor Bob Swartz, who spoke briefly about the spending plan during the regular City Commission meeting, called the budget’s development an interesting adventure.
Swartz said it began in 2010 when the city saw a $205 million decline in its ratable base, creating a major hole in the budget. Prior to the drop, the city was valued at $1.8 billion.
According to the most recent figures from the Cape May County Board of Taxation, the city is valued at $1.5 billion.
Swartz said that with the decline in value, the city looked at layoffs, a move the current administration decided not to take. Instead, the city approved an emergency appropriation of $2.15 million last year to make up the difference.
The city had initially hoped to use $1.8 million of that money as surplus toward the 2012 budget, but the state would not allow it. That forced the city to pursue other options such as increasing fees and creating new amenities that will charge user fees.
Troiano said the budget will not include any layoffs. Earlier this year, the city had created a layoff plan that would have resulted in 25 job losses.
The city now has 168 year-round employees and 136 seasonal workers.
“We’re sitting in a very good position (for next year). The money we weren’t allowed to use, we still have that. We have the back bay, which could become a nice addition, and we have recurring revenues,” Troiano said.
During the meeting, Troiano pointed to Gov. Chris Christie’s recent signing of legislation that increases the number of solar credits that the state’s electricity utilities must buy, a move designed to aid growth in the solar industry.The city has talked for several years about turning the former back bay landfill into a solar farm.
Troiano credited city employees, department heads and his fellow commissioners with making the budget possible, and he acknowledged his political opponents, who he said were expecting taxes to increase.
“For all those people who were praying for a tax increase, sorry to disappoint you,” Troiano said.
Copies of the budget were not available Wednesday, but should be available to the public within the next few days.
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