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Friday, April 12, 2024

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Lower Holding the Line on Municipal Tax Rate

Lower Holding the Line on Municipal Tax Rate

By Christopher South

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VILLAS – Municipal auditor Leon Costello told the Lower Township Council that having no tax rate increase in 2024 was no joke.

“It’s not a zero that is a joke; it’s a real, true budget,” Costello said at the Monday, March 4, council meeting.

Township Manager Mike Laffey presented the council with a $34.6 million budget with a tax rate decrease of one-tenth of a cent per $100 of assessed value, going from .6180 to .6179. The owner of a $300,000 home will pay 30 cents less for the year in the local purpose tax, which is the tax raised for the operation of the township.

“This is a very sound budget. There are no one-time gimmicks,” Costello said.

The auditor was referring to efforts made by some towns that result in no tax increase for appearance’s sake but risk a higher tax rate increase in the future. He said responsible fiscal management is not new for Lower Township.

“It is the budget you want and the budget we put out there,” he said.

Laffey said there will be no tax rate increase this year even though spending will go up more than $750,000. The township will have a fund surplus of over $9.7 million.

“That is the highest year-end surplus to date,” he said.

Of that $9.7 million, the township is applying $4.86 million to the 2024 budget “to help us keep the tax rate level,” he said.

“We feel confident using this amount of surplus because we’re well within the parameters of our fund balance policy.”

Laffey said the township is over half a million dollars below its tax levy cap and $85,000 below the spending cap. Both caps are mandated by the state.

He said the township will collect $23.092 million from property taxes, compared to $23.021 million in 2023, an increase of about $71,000.

The township’s total valuation increased by $10,964,159, to $3,737,196,822, which is less than one-third of a percent increase. Based on the total valuation, a penny on the tax rate equals $373,719.

Laffey said Lower’s tax collection rate was 99.06%, adding $1.4 million to the surplus, and other revenue collections exceeded projections, bringing in another $1.4 million.

Members of the council expressed their approval of the budget and praised the department heads who they said made it possible.

There was no public comment on the budget. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 1, at 5 p.m. The budget will be available to the public on the township website or at the clerk’s office in Township Hall.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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