VERNON-The Township Council Monday night adopted an $18.3-million budget for 2004. Of that, $10 million is to be raised by local property taxes. The spending plan calls for a 4.3 percent increase in property taxes for municipal purposes, costing a taxpayer with a home assessed at $100,000 an extra $30 per year. The budget includes a capital improvement plan costing $4.5 million, $3.4 million of which will be financed by bonds. In a lengthy discussion with Roy Tanfield, a taxpayer concerned with rising taxes who lives in Manhattan but owns a condo at Great Gorge, the council said that the budget increase represents a lower rate of increase than the 6.1 percent tax hike imposed by last year's budget. Still, said councilman Neil Desmond, 93 percent of the township's ratables are residential properties, and the small commercial investment in the town is the primary reason that the burden of paying for government falls on the shoulders of homeowners. The original budget proposed to the council called for an increase of more than 10 percent in taxes. But a new state program to provide tax relief to towns that host watersheds added $294,000 in aid to the town treasury. Another $90,000 arrived from the federal government in the form of a Homeland Security grant. The aid was applied totally to reduce the tax load, the council said. The biggest line item in the budget is $6.9 million for salaries. Another $1.3 million is earmarked for road repairs and maintenance. The anticipated reserve is $1.7 million. Mayor Ira Weiner said he sees a day when taxes will level off and perhaps even drop slightly. The growth of the tax rate, he said, is the result of the township constructing the infrastructure that it hopes with bring in commercial development to take some of the tax burden off homeowners. The capital budget reflects some of those efforts, particularly in the town center project now underway that will construct a Main Street extending from Church Street south across Route 94 and paralleling Route 515 before turning east to connect to the A&P shopping plaza. A sewer system must be built to support development. More than $800,000 in the capital spending play n nearly 20 percent of the total n is for acquisition of property for and construction of Main Street. Another $934,000 is earmarked for the first stages of development of ball fields on the Maple Grange park property. The money represents the price the state paid for the historic portion of the property under the Green Acres program. Another major expense is $780,000 for road work, including $373,000 to pave Lake Pochung Road in concrete. The rest of the road money is for "improvements to various roads." The final major capital expense is $480,000 to replace a pumper truck for the Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department.