2019 Brigantine Municipal Budget

Letter to the editor:

The Brigantine City Manager introduced his proposed municipal budget to the City Council on 2/20/19. This is a “working” budget, meaning it is now subject to Council’s scrutiny, comments and changes, and finally, the public hearing and a vote for adoption on April 3.

Unfortunately, too often this part of the process is considered a routine matter by Council, with a “yes” vote expected and given. Different opinions and viewpoints based on facts can be helpful in saving taxpayers money on their property taxes. They should be discussed in a public meeting before the vote.

In an analysis of this budget several numbers deserve closer attention. They are the amount of the City’s surplus (fund balance) at year’s end and the amount of the local municipal tax rate. (The school district and the county have separate budgets and tax rates.)  The amount of surplus continues to set records in the City’s financial history. It is $6.2 million for 12/31/19, and $6.3 million for 12/31/18.  As in 2018, $2,850,000, less than 50% of the $6.2 million, is allocated for use in the 2019 budget, leaving a $3.4 million surplus balance. The less money allocated, the more taxpayers pay in property taxes.

An excessive surplus means excessive taxation.

As stated in the 2018 and 2019 Manager’s reports, “The 2018 surplus was substantially replenished and it is anticipated that a significant portion of the used balance in 2019 will also be replenished by the end of this year as well”. Yes, with unnecessary taxation.

City Council members have criticized increases in the municipal tax-rate in the years 2013 and 2014. A different political party was in control then so that’s understandable. However, when the whole story is told a different picture emerges. Those increases were retained when today’s majority regained control, except for annual less than 1 to 2 cent tax- rate reductions over the next 5 years, a total of 6.3 cents in reductions. The increases have continued to generate historically big surpluses.

The way to benefit taxpayers is not to overtax them in the first place and then boast of tax-rate reductions.

In the proposed budget a penny is worth $329,613, with a tax-rate reduction of 1.7 cents, bringing the municipal tax-rate to 64.8 cents per $100 of assessed value – in 2019, total City valuation of $3.3 billion, in 2018, $3.26 billion, a gain of almost $30 million. Council is now able to work with these figures to increase this reduction by increasing the surplus allocation for use in the budget.

As we have done in previous years, we ask City Council to make these changes before voting, correcting too much surplus, too little tax-rate reduction.

Sincerely, Brigantine Taxpayers Association, Anne H. Phillips, President.

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