The Township Council introduced the 2023 municipal budget at its meeting March 27, but members asked for cuts that would have taxpayers paying no more than last year.
The budget called for a tax levy of about $20 million, a 5.69 percent increase from a year earlier. The levy would increase despite a 4.14 percent drop in the tax rate.
The average township home in 2023 is assessed at $310,000, up from $237,500 in 2022. That means that the owner of the average home would pay $1,699 in municipal taxes this year, up from $1,607 last year.
Chief Financial Officer Donelle Bright said the 2023 budget would cost the average Vernon taxpayer $4.64 a day.
The 2023 budget calls for about $17.6 million for municipal operations, $5.2 million for debt service and capital appropriations, $2.6 million for the Sussex County Municipal Utility Authority and $2.5 million for the township’s reserve for uncollected taxes.
At the beginning of the budget discussion, Councilman Joe Tadrick said he would not support any budget that called for a tax increase.
“I don’t know what the other council (members) are telling you how they are going to vote, but if everybody says no more taxes, zero tax increase, just like last year, it then behooves you folks in the administration to figure out how to get that money to spend down, and how to cut,” he said. “That’s not our job.”
Councilwoman Peg Distasi said she would like to see all operating expenses reduced by 10 percent.
Councilman Brad Sparta asked why a majority of payroll increases were more than 6 percent.
Councilman Patrick Rizzuto had a problem with the council holding on to about $9 million in fund balance, which he said was 25 percent of the entire budget.
Bright said the budget includes $1.9 million for capital projects, an increase from last year.
Capital needs include road repairs, fire vehicles and equipment, improvements to Veterans Park, police and Department of Public Works vehicles and equipment, Emergency Medical Services vehicles and equipment, general technology upgrades, building property upgrades and animal control.
At the meeting, the council introduced an ordinance that would allocate $340,000 from the capital Improvement fund to purchase a new tanker truck for the McAfee Fire Department.
It also introduced a measure to appropriate $845,300 and authorize the issuance of $320,300 in bonds for the purchase of a pumper truck for the Highland Lakes Fire Department.
A public hearing and final vote on both ordinances will be this month.