Wantage. Wantage’s tax collections were stable in 2020, but the township is a little low in the fund balance, according to an audit presentation by Thomas Ferry of Weilkotz & Company.
Ferry gave his report to the township committee on Sept. 9.
The township’s tax collections were at 97.33 percent, according to the audit.
“I always tell you, guys, during budget season that this number is very important when we do the budget for the reserve and uncollected tax number,” Ferry said. “The lower this number is, the more we have to put in the budget to reserve for uncollected taxes.”
The Reserved and Uncollected Taxes Fund provides a buffer for townships, which are the collection agencies required by law to make school districts in Sussex County whole.
Wantage collected $36 million in revenue in 2020.
For every dollar the township collects, it keeps 15 cents. The local school districts get 62 cents, and 21 cents goes to Sussex County.
“What I always like to say is if you want to complain, complain 15 percent here, 62 percent to the schools, and 20 percent to the county, because we’re just the collection agency.”
Overall, the township’s revenues were higher than expenditures and put $403,000 into the fund balance. However, the township took out $580,000.
“If you keep on this trend, the fund balances can keep going lower, and your cookie jars will run out,” Ferry said.
Ferry said the fund balance is at about $870,000. His general rule of thumb is to maintain a fund balance that is 10 percent of the tax levy. Wantage’s 2020 tax levy was $33 million last year, so the high ceiling for the fund balance would be a $3.3 million.
“You’re kind of on the low side, but to be honest with you, when we went out to bond, the (bond agency) didn’t think so,” Ferry said. “So, if they’re okay with it, I’m okay with it. I’d like to see your fund balance slowly creep up, but right now is not a good time.”