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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Stone Harbor Amends, Then Adopts 2024 Budget

Stone Harbor Amends, Then Adopts 2024 Budget

By Vince Conti

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STONE HARBOR – The Borough Council has adopted a $22.2 million budget for 2024 that raises the local purpose tax rate by one cent.

The surprise at the budget adoption April 16 was that the council first amended the budget, but it did not say anything in public about what was being amended. The resolution on the amendments was not part of the public packet posted online with the agenda in advance of the meeting.

The budget increases the local purpose tax rate from $0.302 to $0.312. A borough home assessed at $2.8 million would pay an extra $277 in local purpose tax this year under the new budget.

The council also adopted a budget for the self-financing water/sewer utility, set at $5.7 million for 2024.

The amended version of the budget included the following changes:

  1. The biggest single change was the addition of almost $13 million to the capital plan, with all of it listed under 2024 or 2025 and earmarked for water/sewer projects. The six-year capital plan rose from $31.2 million in the introduced budget to $44 million in the adopted budget. The changes were made at the state’s insistence in order to have the municipal budget match the borough’s reporting under the Water Quality Accountability Act. This year Stone Harbor did not review its own budget. Periodically the state reviews municipal budgets for compliance with state laws and regulations.
  2. The total revenue figure increased by $178,000, accounted for by grants that were not yet received when the budget was introduced.
  3. Some revenue funds were moved from one location to another, leaving the impression that revenue from beach tag sales was declining. Not so. $190,000 was removed from the anticipated revenue for beach tag sales, but it was reintroduced into the budget at a location where it offset the same amount in lifeguard salary and wages that appear outside of the cap calculation as part of an agreement with the state last year when the borough was having serious difficulty staying under the state cap restrictions.
  4. Scattered small increases in salary and wages were included to provide the borough with the ability to give non-union employees an annual increase. There was no annual increase for non-union employees in the introduced budget. The change sets up the potential for such increases, but the council made no statement at the meeting that would indicate those increases are what it plans to do. In the interval between the introduced budget on March 19 and the adopted budget, some employees who had received no annual increase held an exploratory meeting to investigate forming a union.

Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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