By Alison Bitterly
THE BOROUGH OF Sea Bright held a special meeting on Monday to discuss the town’s 2012 budget proposal.
Sea Bright’s Chief Financial Officer, Michael Bascom, provided council members with information and statistics on the new budget. After months of editing and revision, the budget currently stands at $5,333,649.24—up from $5,200,440.81 from 2011, but still slightly lower than $5,344,631 in 2010.
He addressed several of the budget’s goals, such as fiscal responsibility, health programs, local infrastructure, and stabilizing the tax rate. While the town’s overall fiscal situation remains stable, Bascom notes that there have been some changes to the budget due to limited funds. “There’s where we want to be, and then there’s what we can afford,” he said Monday. “In the end, you still have a strong budget and a town that will continue to provide the same services you have today.”
Bascom’s presentation also illuminated the ongoing effect of dwindling State Aid. He acknowledged that “[while] inflation continues to grow… State Aid continues to decline, leaving more and more of the burden on the local property taxpayer”. In 2012, State Aid will make up 3.02% of operating revenue, with property taxes at 74.41 percent of revenue—a distribution that has been more balanced in the past.
Nevertheless, Sea Bright’s property taxes will only be affected slightly going into 2012, with an increase of 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The average amount of property taxes paid by a home in Sea Bright is $6,739, compared to an average of $7,754 statewide and $8,040 countywide. In short, Sea Bright has managing relatively well in light of New Jersey’s ongoing economic obstacles.
Even so, certain changes will be made to compensate for Sea Bright’s limited funds. While police hourly wages are slightly up, police and public employment pensions have decreased somewhat. There has also been a minor increase in spending on health programs. Most other areas of the budget, including beach and sewer utility, remain stationary—despite the borough council’s desire to increase spending on beach improvements.
Overall, Sea Bright projects that its budget will remain stable, with the exception of items outside of local control, such as state aid. The town’s borough council continues to focus on balancing a stable tax rate with a functioning local infrastructure. In these uncertain economic times, that often requires caution. “Something little in a small town can change things quickly, so we have to be careful,” Bascom said, acknowledging the need for fiscal vigilance. “We want to communicate a stable budget for the long-t