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Brick Officials Reduce Planned Tax Hike After $1M Gifted From BTMUA

Brick Mayor Lisa Crate introduces the 2023 operating budget, March 28, 2023. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick Mayor Lisa Crate introduces the 2023 operating budget, March 28, 2023. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick Township council unanimously approved the 2024 operating budget at its meeting Tuesday night, adopting a spending plan that reduces a property tax increase which was included in the original budget first proposed in March.

Following a public hearing, the council voted in favor of an amendment to the budget, as introduced, to increase revenue by sourcing $1 million from the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority. The practice of using MUA funds to contribute to municipal operating budgets is not new – this year will mark the fifth time over the last 10 years that the MUA sent funding to the township. The matter did generate some consternation from a group of residents who argued the MUA money should have been directed toward the Board of Education, which faces a budgetary crisis in the face of state funding cuts. Republicans also criticized the move, saying the proposed increases were due to a tax cut last year during the heat of a mayoral election.

Incumbent Democratic candidates ultimately swept that election, though Mayor Lisa Crate must run again for a full term, since she is still filling the unexpired term of former Mayor John Ducey, who left office after being appointed a Superior Court judge last year.

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Notwithstanding the dissent, council members from both parties agreed to accept the $1 million from the MUA – which collects its money through water-sewer service rates – to reduce the increase in property taxes which would have added up to about $98 for an median-assessed home in the township. Under the revised budget, the property tax increase will be $73.86 for the year for a homeowner whose property is assessed at $252,100, the township’s median.

Overall, the budget as adopted calls for a municipal tax rate of 79.271 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. That does not include school district taxes – which make up the bulk of one’s property tax bill – county taxes or fire district taxes.

The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority, BTMUA (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority, BTMUA (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The total municipal budget for 2024 is $117,737,525, up from $115,467,763 last year. The tax levy – the amount funded by residents through property taxes – will be $83,835,406, up from $80,547,357 last year. Officials also voted to utilize $10,942,419 in surplus to pare down the property tax burden. The township, however, will still maintain a surplus of $11,505,393.

Joanne Bergin, the township’s business administrator, said several items were behind rising costs this year, including significant increases to state pension funds, and a $2 million increase in the township’s insurance rate. Police salaries and wages, following the settlement of a new contract and maintaining a full roster of sworn officers and additional special officers, rose by $860,000.

There will also some reductions in spending, including $370,000 in interest on bonds that have been retired, $400,000 less in gasoline costs and $140,000 in solid waste collection savings through grants.

The township also reduced its debt load by $3.7 million between 2022 and 2023, reflected in the 2024 budget.

On Thursday night, the Board of Education is expected to adopt its $162,235,456 budget for the 2024-25 school year, an increase over the $160,370,747 expended during the current school year. The 2024-25 budget, which is subject to a public hearing and vote at the meeting Thursday, includes a tax levy of $124,063,219, up from $120,466,734 during the current school year.

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