The bulk of the increase is dedicated to the purchase of a new trash truck, but the borough is not taxing to the 2-percent cap limit.
By Matt Skoufalos
Taxes are headed up in the 2015 Oaklyn municipal budget as the borough works to manage local costs and infrastructure needs with its modest local ratable base.
The $5.587-million budget is 7.6 percent larger than the $5.161-million budget Oaklyn passed in 2014, but the borough will only increase its local tax levies 1.5 percent in 2015, a half-percentage point less than the full 2 percent allowable under New Jersey budget cap laws.
The local increase amounts to 5.7 cents per $100 of assessed value, or $93.24 for a home assessed at the borough average of $163,586 in 2015.
“We always find it a challenge with the ratables that we have,” said Oaklyn Mayor Robert Forbes.
“Our goal is to keep taxes to a minimum, and we would have been able to have a smaller tax increase this year had it not been for the trash truck.”
The $60,000 purchase of a pre-owned sanitation truck added about 2 cents per $100 of assessed value to the borough budget “as a one-time hit,” Forbes said. The mayor explained that buying the vehicle outright spares Oaklyn future financing costs, and that local leaders are hoping to be able to lower taxes in 2016 with that purchase in the rearview mirror.
Some of the 2015 tax increase will be offset by a $555,000 draw-down of the $879,879 local surplus fund, which Forbes said will more than likely be replenished by revenues from its shared municipal court agreement with Barrington, Haddon Heights, and Mount Ephraim.
Budget appropriations for local salaries and wages will increase 4.5 percent, or $83,365 from 2014 levels ($1.85 million versus $1.77 million). In addition to previously negotiated cost-of-living increases, those figures cover the addition of a full-time police officer and moving a part-time borough employee to full-time duties as Oaklyn increases the frequency of its rental inspections from once every three years to a yearly process.
The Oaklyn budget also dedicates $90,000 to debt service and another $50,000 to capital improvements.
Of that, $12,000 is dedicated to the replacement of turn-out gear for the Oaklyn Fire Department, and $14,000 to pay for the fit-out of a police vehicle.
Forbes said that elected officials have been planning for emergency services equipment replacement along “a manageable, long-term budgetary schedule.
“We’ve been caught before in previous budgets where you have to replace 10 firefighters’ outfits” at once, he said.
Another $12,000 capital dollars will go to repairing curb ramps along Johnson Avenue at the intersections of Beechwood and Bettlewood Avenues, said borough clerk-administrator Bonnie Taft.
The remaining $28,000 will pay for replacement windows in the borough library and a portion of the cost of updating the HVAC system in the municipal building.
The bulk of the HVAC bill is covered by a grant award, Forbes said, making the investment “a no-brainer for us.
“We’re always doing maintenance issues,” Forbes said. “That’s the cost of running a business or running a household. To us, a little bit of outlay is a long-term achievement.”
Oaklyn also increased its budget for road repairs and maintenance by 40 percent, or $57,660, in 2015, and other infrastructure projects are on the horizon. The borough is applying for a USDA grant to assist with financing the replacement of “most, if not all” of the sewer lines for the east side of the White Horse Pike, including Beechwood, Bettlewood, East Clinton, Haddon, and Lakeview Avenues, Forbes said.
“The rates are very low and you’re allowed to go over a 40-year period,” the mayor said. “It’s a lot easier to handle.”
Taft said that the borough council works to make its budgeting process as transparent and thorough as possible, going “line by line in public meetings” from the beginning of the year. The governing body will hold a public hearing on the budget at its April 14 meeting.