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Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Stone Harbor Local Tax Rate, Water/Sewer Rates to Rise


By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – The Borough Council has introduced a 2024 budget that raises the local purpose tax rate by 1 cent per $100 of assessed value, a 3.3% increase.

The tax rate would move from $0.302 to $0.312 under the proposed budget. The council, at its Tuesday, March 19, meeting, also introduced an ordinance change that will increase fees for water/sewer use in excess of the quarterly allowance of 10,000 gallons, a move expected to affect about 70% of water users.

Chief Financial Officer James Craft said the borough’s general fund budget for 2024 will be $22.25 million, with spending up $753,000 over 2023. If grants are removed to even out the budget comparison, Craft said the 2024 budget will see spending rise by 2.14%.

The budget for the Water and Sewer Utility is $5.7 million and contains the added revenue expected as a result of the rate increase. Even though the ordinance has not yet gone through a public hearing and vote to adopt, a change could leave the utility’s budget with a hole in its revenue calculation.

The general fund surplus has increased to $4.7 million as of Dec. 31. Of that balance, $2.5 million will be used in the 2024 budget.

The introduced budget document is now available on the borough’s website.

According to Craft, the increase in water rates was necessitated by a rise in the Water and Sewer Utility’s debt service. The new rate structure put in place two years ago, which shifted more of the fee burden to the properties that use the most water, will continue.

Under the ordinance change, those properties using more than the quarterly allowance of 10,000 gallons will pay $6.50 per 1,000 gallons, up to 50,000 gallons. The previous fee was $5.50 per 1,000. Those properties using between 50,000 and 80,000 gallons will pay $7.50 per 1,000. If a property uses more than 80,000 gallons, the charge under the introduced ordinance is $8.50 per 1,000. In each case the new rate is $1 per 1,000 gallons higher than it currently is.

Craft said that 31% of water users will see no increase because they do not use more than the quarterly allowance, whose rate has not changed.

In December, Borough Administrator Manny Parada told the council that annual water use continues to grow, a situation he said “is not alarming but concerning.” While Parada said he did not yet have a good handle on what was driving up consumption, he said, “The trend is going in the wrong direction.”


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

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