The Vernon Township Council got its first look at the township’s 2021 budget, which is $500,000 bigger than last year’s budget.
Mayor Howard Burrell on March 3 said the 2021 budget is slightly over $28 million, up 2 percent from 2020. The average Vernon home, assessed at a value of about $206,000, will see an increase of $90 per year, or $7 per month, in the municipal portion of the property tax bill, he said.
Burrell said his goal in 2021 is to maintain services and continue the road improvement plan, while continuing to pay down debt and create a pay-as-you-go system for most capital expenses.
He also hopes to continue to make repairs and improvements to township properties and minimize the burden on Vernon taxpayers as the township recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As our residents know from dealing with their personal household finances, every year the cost of most things increase, and that same cost increase principle applies to all of the things related to operating an effective and efficient municipal budget,” Burrell said.
Burrell said the new budget includes mandated increases in Social Security and pension payments, and a significant portion continues to be reserved for uncollected taxes.
According to state law, the county and local school districts collect their property taxes from the township. That means the township must cover uncollected taxes to make Sussex County and the Vernon Township School District whole.
The township’s 2020 tax collection rate was 96 percent. The township is required to reserve $3.1 million to cover uncollected taxes, about 11 percent of the total budget.
Councilman Harry Shortway said the Brooklyn-based company that owns the Black Creek condos owes the township and the Municipal Utilities Authority more than $200,000. Glenwood 999, the owner of the former Camp Sussex, owes slightly less than $50,000, he said.
Shortway said the town needs to be aggressive in collecting that money.
“You see what the effect what the effect is on the RUT,” said Shortway said, using the acronym for the “reserved for uncollected taxes” budget line. “We’re talking about LLCs, but there are people on a fixed income or who have lost their jobs — they’re paying their county and board of education taxes. They’re paying while (the LLCs are) sitting in Brooklyn, N.Y. It’s not fair to everyone else who is paying.”
Burrell said the township has seen strong support from Mountain Creek Resort, which paid its sewer fees and taxes by July for the rest of the year. He said based on conversations he had with Mountain Creek owner Joe Hession, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if the township has all that tax revenue by the end of March.
The council was expected to discuss the budget further at Monday’s meeting.
“As our residents know from dealing with their personal household finances, every year the cost of most things increase, and that same cost increase principle applies to all of the things related to operating an affective and efficient municipal budget.” Mayor Howard Burrell