Mayor John Ducey on Tuesday night proposed the first tax cut in three decades for Brick residents and pledged to reduce the township’s budget by $4.4 million.
Ducey said the township’s $100,337,745 spending plan for 2017 cuts spending by $4,451,617 compared to 2016 and calls for a reduction of one-half cent on the municipal tax rate. For a resident of Brick with a home valued $294,100, the township’s average, their property tax bill would be reduced by $14.71.
The tax rate for 2017, under the proposed budget, would be 68.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. This represents only the municipal tax rate – school taxes are controlled by the Board of Education and county taxes by the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Neither of those entities have introduced their budgets or announced tax rates for the year.
Ducey said his administration has stabilized spending at a “historic rate” following years of double-digit tax increases in Brick to the tune of 28 percent between 2010 and 2013, 19 percent between 2006 and 2009 and 27 percent between 2002 and 2005. Ducey, a Democrat who is running for re-election this year, said during his firs term, spending increased by just 1.9 percent.
Ducey credited debt reduction and fiscal belt-tightening for the reduction, as well as reduced spending on Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts. To that end, Brick will still have to appropriate $1,484,000 to continue to pay back Sandy recovery debt, equal to 1.44 cents on the tax rate. The good news, officials said, is that this is the township’s final payment for the cost.
Sandy continues to affect the overall tax base in town. While the township’s ratable base increased by $18.66 million this year, it is still $341.7 million less than pre-Sandy levels, said Edward Moroney, township spokesman.
The 2017 budget utilizes $10,928,024 from the township’s surplus account toward its operating budget. Ducey said that level of utilization leaves the township with a surplus balance of $10,955,587, the highest dollar amount since at least 1993. The balance represents 10.92% of the budget, the highest amount since 1994.
“The surplus is essentially the township’s savings account,” said Ducey. “Having a healthy surplus available is a sign of fiscal responsibility and strength. There were several years where the township had less than $100,000 remaining in surplus, which put us in a very precarious position financially speaking. I am proud that we have been able to correct this.”
Ducey touted his record as mayor during the presentation, saying despite the tax reduction, Brick has been able to rebuild many of its parks and add more police officers to fight crime. As part of a debt reduction plan, the 2017 budget includes $13,493,521 in debt service payments. The township’s net debt as of Jan. 1 is $151,310,134.down from $168,335,337 at the start of Ducey term. The plan calls for reducing debt by a total of $18,293,203 since implementation by the end of this year.