Brick Township held a required public hearing Tuesday night on its $98,917,050 budget for 2015 but did not adopt the spending plan. Officials said the township was waiting on final word from the state Department of Community Affairs on an Essential Services Grant that would provide federal funding to make up for portions of the tax base lost during Superstorm Sandy.
The third – and likely final – round of Sandy grants are designed to help local government agencies make up for tax revenue lost due to taxable property being lost during the storm. This year, awards will be halved from 2013, the first year the grants were allocated. Last year, Brick was awarded $3,750,000, which will likely be reduced by 25 percent this year, according to state budgeting documentation.
The public hearing on the budget, which includes a tax hike of $1,949,786 – enough to cost a Brick family with an average-priced $248,900 home $47.29 on the municipal portion of their tax bills – drew just one comment.
“People in Brick and in New Jersey are not looking for a small increase in their taxes, or even no increase in their taxes. They’re looking for their taxes to go down,” resident Vic Fanelli told council members. “Students who go to school out of state usually don’t come back because they can’t afford to live here. The birth rate is down. Retirees are moving out en masse, and they’re taking their money with them.”
Most of the tax increase can be related to issues stemming from Sandy, Mayor John Ducey has said. The tax base is still down $362,254,766 from pre-storm levels, which equates to a loss of $1,940,580 in tax revenue – nearly the entire increase this year – which must be paid by remaining residents. Additionally, Ducey said, the township must pay $3,726,150 in emergency note interest and principal payments related to storm cleanup. Altogether, Sandy-related expenses and the loss of tax base add up to $5,766,730 in the budget, equivalent to 5.62 cents on the tax rate.