The proposed 2023 municipal budget has been cut so no increase in the tax rate is needed, Mayor Howard Burrell said at the Township Council meeting April 10.
When the budget was introduced at the March 27 meeting, it had a tax levy of about $20 million, a 5.69 percent increase from a year earlier.
The council approved the revised budget in a 4-1 vote April 10 with only Councilman Joe Tadrick voting against it.
He pressed Burrell for confirmation that $100,000 to pave the trail on the Baldwin property no longer is in the budget but did not receive it.
The spending plan would use nearly another $1 million of the fund balance, for a total of about $2.1 million. That would reduce the fund balance to 18 percent of the total budget from 22 percent.
Burrell said this could result in a lower bond rating, forcing Vernon to play higher interest rates.
Business Administrator Tina Kraus worked with Sussex County Administrator Ron Tappan to get an 18 percent reduction in what the township pays for road salt.
The revised budget also reduces the contribution to the capital improvement fund to $75,000. A larger amount would have enabled the township to pay cash for needed municipal items rather than borrow money, the mayor said.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he noted. “At some point in the future, some future mayor and council will have to deal with the economic consequences of actions that I and the council have agreed to take as part of this compromise.”
Council President Natalie Buccieri said it was a fair compromise.
“We have not reduced our fund balance to a point that I think is unhealthy,” she said. “We will still be at roughly 18 percent. I think this is a good compromise and not kicking the can down the road.”
By not raising the tax rate this year, the government is showing the public that it is willing to make changes, she added.
Councilman Brad Sparta said the township needs to contract the government.
“When you look at the budget and you see how much of it is put into personnel, I think you have to look at this and see if all those personnel are warranted at this time,” he said.
He encouraged Burrell and Kraus to try to shrink the township’s work force.