The Vernon council combed through the township’s budget with department heads for nearly five years, trying to whittle the projected tax increase to zero.
On March 21, Mayor Howard Burrell presented the council with the draft $29 million budget, which calls for a 1.7 percent increase in the tax levy.
Burrell said the increase translates to $28 per year, or $2.33 per month, for the average township home, which is assessed at $237,500.
Councilman Brian Lynch asked Burrell if there was any way to zero out the tax increase, or even give the taxpayers a decrease.
“Vernon has gone through hell in the last two years, with the price of gas, the price of everything going up,” Lynch said. “Although $28 doesn’t seem like an incredibly large amount of money, it adds up.”
Burrell said he would give one thousand percent cooperation on that.
“That does sound like a good goal because we are only 1.7 percent away,” he said.
But the township will not be able to get around some increases. Health insurance for township employees has gone up 14 percent, and Social Security and pension payments are up 8 percent.
Burrell said he had seven key goals when crafting the budget: maintain services and the talent required to provide those services, continue the ongoing road development program, replace old and inefficient equipment, pay down debt, continue repairing and improving township properties, and minimize the tax burden.
He said wants a budget that does not exceed the 7.9 percent inflation rate. He also wants Vernon to be “the type of town that’s a good place in which to live and raise a family, as well as a place where businesses want to locate and prosper.”
Over the hours, the council questioned which areas could be trimmed.
Burrell said the council could introduce a whittled-down budget at its March 28 meeting (as this paper goes to press), putting the council on track to passing it on time.
“Vernon has gone through hell in the last two years, with the price of gas, the price of everything going up. Although $28 doesn’t seem like an incredibly large amount of money, it adds up.” Councilman Brian Lynch