SOMERS POINT - City Council introduced a budget Thursday that will raise the local tax rate by 6.7 cents, a 5.2 percent increase.

City Council promised to hold hearings before a planned early June adoption, including one at 6 p.m. Thursday.

City Council President Sean McGuigan said the rate was too high.

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Unlike other municipalities grappling with budget shortfalls, Somers Point officials did mention layoffs or furloughs in their presentation.

Administrator Wes Swain placed much of the blame on the state. He said after local aid was cut by $250,000, that 22 percent reduction was equivalent to 3.7 cents on the tax rate.

Swain said the budget remains a work in progress, and that $89,200 had already been cut from an earlier budget. "We really have to think about how we deliver services or what we need to cut," he said.

The proposed new tax rate would be $1.293 per $100 of assessed value, compared with $1.226 last year. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay $134 more, or $2,586 in local use taxes.

Somers Point's $12.8 million budget uses $1.2 million of the municipal surplus. This is 80.4 percent of the $1.4 million surplus.

The budget also uses slightly less than $9 million in local taxes, up from $8.6 million last year.

The budget includes $50,000 for the Planning Board to work on a master plan. There is also a $42,000 increase in worker compensation insurance, up to $354,000.

Budgeted police salaries rose by $205,000, to $2.6 million. Swain said the current year was based on a new contract, while last year's figures were based on an expired contract that was since updated.

The budget also shows the city saving a collective $46,000 in diesel and gasoline. Swain said the difference came from the expectation of lower prices when the budget was drafted this year compared with price expectations last year.

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