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Friday, April 12, 2024

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Upper Budget: 1.4-cent Tax Rate Hike

Christopher South
Shown, left to right, are Upper Township Chief Financial Officer Barbara Ludy and municipal auditor Leon Costello of the Ford, Scott accounting firm. Upper Township introduced its 2024 $17 million budget that includes a 1.4-cent tax rate increase.

By Christopher South

Homeowner With an Average Assessment Will Pay $42 More

PETERSBURG – Upper Township homeowners with the town’s average assessment will pay $42 more in taxes this year to support the municipal budget introduced by the Township Committee on Monday, Feb. 26.

Business Administrator Gary DeMarzo said the $17.6 million budget calls for a 1.4-cent increase in the 2023 tax rate to cover a combined $300,000 in debt service and employee obligations.

Municipal Auditor Leon Costello, who was present for the budget introduction, called the 2024 budget “a very sound budget,” coming after a year of turmoil. The turmoil he referred to was related to double-digit health insurance rate increases. The tax rate increased 2.8 cents in 2023 to cover an additional $550,000 in expenses.

The 2023 tax rate was 28 cents per $100 of assessed value, and it will increase to 29.43 cents per $100 of assessed value. For a home valued at $300,000, the municipal tax rate would cost the homeowner $839.70 in local purpose taxes. In 2024, that amount would increase to $881.70, or another $42 over the year.

Costello said the budget is $580,000 under the state-mandated spending cap and $750,000 under the state’s levy cap.

“You are well below the caps – everything has settled down,” he said.

DeMarzo said the township collects over $41 million in taxes, but only $17.6 million stays in the township to cover township expenses, with the rest going to pay for debt service on capital expenses.

Breaking down the $41 million into percentages, DeMarzo said the school district accounts for 71% of the taxes collected, the county gets 16%, and 13% stays with the township.

“We are a collection agency,” DeMarzo said. “We collect $41 million, and Upper Township receives $5 million.”

The administrator said that for every $1,000 the township collects in taxes, it keeps only $120 to apply to the township’s needs, 70% of which are employee-related costs.

“This budget solves what we have to do for the operating year,” he said.

The increase amounts to about another $300,000 in the budget. DeMarzo said that equates to the owner of a $300,000 home, the township average, paying an additional $42 for the year, or $3.55 more per month, in 2024.

Mayor Jay Newman said the Township Committee is trying to keep the tax rate as low as it responsibly can.

Costello said there will be a second reading and public hearing on the 2024 budget on Monday, March 25, at 4:30 p.m.

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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