WILDWOOD - The city formally agreed Wednesday to develop a plan to identify new revenue sources, part of an ongoing effort to move away from one-time revenue sources.
Commissioner Pete Byron said the move, in keeping with the state's best practices recommendations, means the city can further its long-range plans as it prepares for the 2014 budget and beyond.
"The only way to reduce taxes is to bring in new revenue," Byron said.
For several years, the city has been focused on putting its growing beach to use. Byron called the beach the city's "biggest source of untapped revenue."
"You can only charge so much for parking meters or other fees," Byron added.
At Wednesday's City Commission meeting, the commission adopted a resolution "to formulate a plan to identify new revenue sources, and retention of revenues, to accumulate the targeted balance over the next five years."
"It has been determined that a fund balance equal to no less than 5 percent of the current fund budget, after applying a portion of the fund balance to tax stabilization, is a realistic and attainable goal for the city," the resolution reads.
Wildwood currently has the highest local purpose tax rate of any municipality in Cape May County, at $1.103 per $100 of assessed valuation. It also has the highest total tax rate, at $1.971. Meanwhile, the tax levy, the money collected from property owners to pay for the city's daily operations is $17 million.
The city, which is undergoing a revaluation, has a total ratable base of about $1.5 billion.
Byron said the city is working on several potential revenues, including reviewing all of the fees it charges to make sure they are fair and in keeping with neighboring municipalities.
The use of the former back bay landfill also remains in discussion, with the possibility of a solar farm and some development in that area.
The city is looking to sell its municipal parking lot on Schellenger Avenue. The lot, with a starting bid of $750,000 is up for auction today. Its sale could mean the return of the property, currently assessed at $3 million, to the tax roles.
Byron noted the land sale does not signal a return to the use of one-time sales to support the city's budget.
"It would be helpful, but we're not looking at it to fill any gaps," Byron said of the potential sale.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the city has managed to keep spending down this year and anticipated a strong financial position for 2014.
He said the key to improving the town lies with changing the mindset.
"We're not going to be a welfare community," Troiano said.
He pointed to recent recognition of the city's high school as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education as an example of the community's positive offerings.
But he said the city still has many issues to cope with, such as unemployment, as it looks to improve its finances.
"Wildwood is an urban community. We have urban issues that other communities don't have," he said.
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