WILDWOOD - The City Commission introduced a $23 million budget this week with a tax levy $2 million less than last year's.
The budget reflects $1.1 million less in salaries and benefits to police officers, $40,000 less to lifeguards and $173,000 less to firefighters.
The city plans to lay off 44 employees this year after laying off 21 in 2010, Business Administrator Dale Goodreau said.
The city submitted the personnel cuts to the state for approval.
The budget also reflects cuts in most other departments, including the city clerk, administrator, tax office, recreation and property inspectors, among others.
Despite these cuts, taxpayers will pay the same in local purpose taxes as last year because the city lost $205 million in declining property values last year.
"We had cuts in every department. The commissioners were very firm that they did not want to have a tax increase," Goodreau said.
The decline in property value created a $2 million gap in tax revenues over last year. Meanwhile, the city had deferred $1.2 million in pension payments, which meant the city had to budget $2.4 million this year.
The city is looking at cost savings and potential sources of revenue, including the new back-bay solar project.
The city also is considering its options over beach tags. The three beach towns in the Wildwoods do not levy fees on beachgoers. The state made that a condition for financing the Wildwoods Convention Center.
In return, Wildwood gets about $385,000 per year from the state to maintain its beaches. But this is far less than the $2 million collected in beach tags each year by Ocean City.
"When you look at the amount of money other towns receive in beach fees, I think we're losing," Goodreau said.
The budget anticipates a 25 percent increase this year in parking revenue based on last year's figures and a slight increase in the room tax, suggesting Wildwood officials think Cape May County's tourism economy will bounce back from the recession.
The budget proposes a tax rate of $1.09 per $100 of assessed value. The owner of $100,000 in property in Wildwood would pay about $1,090 in municipal property taxes or the same as last year.
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