Brigantine’s City Manager submitted his 2018 municipal budget. It’s now up to the City Council to work on it in preparation for its final approval. The public hasn’t yet seen all these numbers that determine property taxes. We believe two numbers stand out that should get the public’s attention. The following phrase expresses them well, just as it did in 2017. “Too much surplus – too little tax reduction”.
Here are the facts.
1. At the end of 2015, there was a surplus (fund balance) of $5,349,846. At the end of 2016, the surplus was $5,695,149. They are the two highest surpluses in the City’s history. As of 12/31/17, the surplus is $6.3 million, another record.
2. Increases in the property-tax rate in the years immediately preceding 2015 were retained by Council and continue to generate these historically big surpluses.
3. Less than 50% of these surpluses has been used to provide revenue for the annual budgets. The less used, the more taxpayers pay. In this 2018 budget, almost $3.5 million is left in surplus, the largest amount ever.
4. An excessive surplus (fund balance) means excessive taxation, beyond what is reasonably expected to be necessary and more than is advised under good financial management.
5. Let’s look at property-tax rate reduction. The proposed 2018 municipal purpose- tax rate is $.664, a decrease of $.013. The 4-year total of tax rate reductions is $.046, $.001 in 2015, $.011 in 2016, $.021 in 2017 and $.013 in 2018. The Manager’s Budget Report states, “The increase ($300,000 more this year from a record surplus to the 2018 budget) in the use of fund balance in 2018 is to allow taxpayers to benefit from the fund balance increase.” The way to benefit taxpayers is not to overtax them in the first place and then boast of tax reductions.
6. Based on the City’s assessed value in 2018, the value of a penny on the 2018 tax rate is $326,634. Decreasing the tax rate an additional $.01, $.0125 or $.015 still leaves the surplus bigger than in each of the years preceding 2018 except 2017. The 12/31/2017 surplus is the biggest in the City’s history but the percentage of it used in this year’s budget is 3 % less than that used in the 2016 budget. Why?
We ask City Council to re-order its priorities as it considers this budget, righting the balance between fair taxation and a reasonable surplus.
Sincerely, The Brigantine Taxpayers Association, Anne H. Phillips, President