Last night the Town of Clinton passed its annual budget which went up slightly due to the purchase of a new fire truck and a rescue truck. The Council did its usual job of trying to slim down the budget as much as possible under a decreased ratable base, which actually went up a bit this year for the first time in a long time. People concerned about where the money is going should read the mayors letter below it explains things.
Our 2015 budget was introduced on March 24, 2015 and we are scheduled to hold the public hearing and adoption on April 28, 2015 during our regular council meeting. In advance of that meeting, I want to share a few budget highlights:
First and foremost, we are finally seeing an increase in our ratable base. After several years of significant losses, we saw an increase of almost $1.5M during 2014. While this is positive, we still have a long way to go to make up for more that $75M we lost in the ratable base over the last several years. This year, one tax point is equal to approximately $35K.
As in previous years, the finance committee goes through the budget line items and then presents the budget to Council through several workshops. We strive to keep costs down but we understand that there are some costs we have no control over such as healthcare, fuel and energy. While it is admirable to keep taxes flat, unfortunately it is not sustainable for any period of time because our surplus eventually dries up and services begin to suffer.
The 2015 budget appropriations have increased three percent over the 2014 budget. The tax levy has increased by seven percent (this is the amount to be raised by taxation which will result in a five cent increase). Three of the five cents are due to the additional appropriations associated with the new fire truck and rescue squad vehicle, which equates to $85K. Both vehicles will be paid in full within 10 years. In addition, we are setting aside money each year to help offset the cost of other new vehicles, as they are needed.
During the year, we negotiated two union contracts for police and public works, which created some additional savings to the town. While all employees received a contractual two percent pay increase, the non-‐contractual employees are now paying the state mandated maximum for healthcare costs and union employees are now paying at year three of the graduated healthcare payments. We are appreciative of the efforts that the police and public works agents contributed to the contract negotiations.
For the first time in many years, Clinton is on a solid financial footing with an adequate surplus [and set asides] available for emergencies. We are continuing to improve our [road/bridge/building] infrastructure as well as in our water and sewer utilities. This updated infrastructure will improve the financial and physical health of the Town. Maintaining our infrastructure and allowing for planned replacement is a priority since routine upkeep is more cost effective than paying for emergency repairs and replacements.
As a reminder, while the Town does collect all of your property tax bill, only 22% actually comes to the Town for municipal use while 65% goes to the Clinton Public School and the North Voorhees Regional HS district and 13% goes to the county government (based on 2014 tax rates – 2015 not yet available).
Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me, members of council, our CFO Kathy Olsen, or the Business Administrator Rich Phelan.
Mayor Janice Kovach