On March 28, 2023, the Cape May County Board of County Commissioners approved the 2023 county budget with a decrease in the tax rate from approximately $.234 per $100 of the 2021 equalized assessed value, i.e., estimated market value, of all county properties to approximately $.208 of the 2022 equalized assessed value.
Nevertheless, since the market value of all taxable property in the county increased significantly, the tax levy is increasing 8% from $148.5 million in 2022 to $161.2 million in 2023. You will see this in your 2023 county tax bill.
For your information, the prior year equalized assessed value, tax levy, and tax rate for 2023 and the prior 10 years is shown below:
A summary of the 2023 and 2022 budget follows:
Of particular interest is the line item “Deferred Charges to Future Taxation-Unfunded.” This is a misnomer since it is an appropriation that will not have an effect on cash expenditures and is in the budget to boost current fund cash and fund surplus. A history of the increases in these accounts follows:
It could be argued that the fund balances are understated because the balance sheet shows appropriation liabilities that will never be paid. In this regard, the 2021 audit report, the latest available, shows $14.2 million of “Unexpended Balance of Prior Year Appropriation Reserves” as income.
There is a very good reason for the build-up of cash and the fund balance. The county’s Comprehensive Bridge Replacement and Improvement Plan indicates that costs will range from $605 million to $894 million.
At best, the state and federal governments will provide funding for 70% of the costs. At worst, these entities will provide funding for 50% of the costs. In either case, outside funding will be required, as there will be significant costs to the county, and it is being smart to improve its financial strength and preserve its credit ratings.