VINELAND — The owner of an average residential property will pay about $70 less in local taxes this year under Mayor Ruben Bermudez’s proposed $59.3 million city budget.
The budget requires no layoffs in the city’s work force and maintains all municipal services at last year’s levels, local officials said.
Bermudez said the budget uses no surplus funds, something he charges that the previous administration of Mayor Robert Romano did in 2012 to keep the local purpose tax rate “artificially” stable during an election year. The city used more than $5.5 million in surplus funds for last year’s budget.
However, Bermudez and city officials said the proposed spending plan is aided by some one-time revenue injections. That includes almost $1.3 million worth of reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs the city incurred during the June 30 storm and Hurricane Sandy. The city also anticipates at least another $300,000 from the expected sale of a new liquor license.
Overall, the proposed budget represents an almost $300,000 reduction from last year’s spending plan.
The budget proposes to increase the amount to be raised by taxation by about $2.1 million to $29.3 million.
The budget sets the proposed local purpose tax rate at 75.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Last year’s rate was $1.34 per $100 of assessed property value.
The difference stems from the city’s first revaluation since 1959. The revaluation increased the city’s true market value from $2.1 billion to $4 billion. City officials said the revaluation, ordered by the Cumberland County Board of Taxation in 2010, creates a more equitable tax structure for residents.
The revaluation also changed the average residential property assessment from $95,700 to $159,600. That means the owner of a home assessed at the new level will pay $1,209 in local purposes taxes this year. That represents a $73 decrease from last year.
City Council introduced the budget Tuesday. The governing body will now review the budget and possibly make changes. The city has until May 14 to adopt it.
In a letter sent to City Council on Tuesday, Bermudez wrote that “much of what is in the 2013 budget was shaped by the previous administration, causing us to make some very hard choices.”
“However, we were elected to provide fiscal responsibility, and I am confident that with City Council’s help, we will,” he wrote.
Bermudez and City Council all ran on the same ticket last year.
In his letter, Bermudez said the most significant increase involves insurance and health care costs.
The budget includes a one-time $1.2 million payment required for the city to cover expenses related to its change in health care providers, he said. The city still will pay less for health insurance than if it had stayed with its previous provider, he said.
City Business Administrator Denise Monaco said departmental operating budgets were kept at last year’s levels. Those operating budgets were reduced during the past several years to the point where they can no longer be cut, she said.
“The next thing we face is a reduction in services,” Monaco said.
City officials also said:
- The budget contribution from the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility, the city-owned power company, will remain at $5.9 million. Bermudez said he did not want to take more money and hinder the utility’s operating and capital needs.
- The city’s work force will remain at 588 employees. Bermudez said a further reduction in the work force would most likely cause service reductions in the police, fire, emergency services and public works departments. “Most are already working with reduced staffs,” he said.
- Public safety represents the largest portion of the budget. That includes almost $14 million budgeted for the Police Department and about $2.1 million budgeted for the Fire Department.
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