July 16, 2012
We would like to respond to some misinformation floating around about the recent tax bills. Let us try to set the record straight with some of the relevant facts and give some insight into the budget decision-making process. We would like to emphasize that the Governing Body after much thought, studying our budget thoroughly and public hearings and input made these decisions.
As we know too well, our national economy is still suffering. We have all taken measures to tighten our belts and weather the current global situation. The Governing Body and Administration continue to seek ways to be financially prudent, streamline costs and ensure a budget of scale that will provide efficient government services.
No doubt this has been a very challenging year for us here in Howell. We experienced the largest amount of property tax appeals ever, resulting in an extraordinary amount of successful tax appeals, leading to an approximately 1.4 million dollar decline in revenue this year. As a result we were ordered by the County Department of Taxation to complete a town wide hybrid tax assessment. The assessment further caused a significant decline in revenue due to declining housing market values. To make up this loss in revenue, the municipal tax rate needed to rise if local services were to be maintained.
It should also be understood that the municipality (Howell Township) is the collecting agent for all the other taxing entities but is the beneficiary of only 18% of all taxes collected. Local and regional school boards, county and fire districts make up the other 82% of taxes collected and are not controlled by the Mayor and Council. The municipality taxes provide services such as police, maintain roads, parks, senior services, animal control and brush and recycling pick-up to name a few.
Understanding that the increase in our tax levy was brought about by many factors, including but not limited to the uncontrollable cost of the following: insurance, pensions, utilities and fuel, unfunded mandates, debt service and reserve for uncollected taxes. However, we are working diligently on a host of economic incentives we believe moving forward will help reduce our 2013-2014 tax levy.
The way this is done is through cooperation. We must continue to work with the other taxing entities, School Boards, County Freeholders, Fire Commissioner’s, State Legislator’s and increase efficiency while we try to find new areas of revenue.
The solution lies with the state legislature to find ways to take the burden away from property taxes and find a more equitable method of funding. Despite our current fiscal situation, there is hope. Due to our budget cuts, making many changes designed to improve the efficiency, finances and productivity of our town and the release of financial constraints, set by the Governor’s tool kit on municipal budget’s we anticipate savings in health insurance and pension costs which will help produce a reduction in our tax levy.
Last year we set in motion a series of actions to offset the tax levy, while still being mindful of the economy, we are in the process of consolidating departments and buildings with the purchase of our new town hall, generating revenue from leasing space to tenant’s, reduction in the workforce by 20%, shared services with surrounding towns, partnering with PAL for recreation, leveraging technology to reduce supplies, restructuring fees for permitting and development, reducing professional fees and investing in green technology to cut utility costs. These initiative’s and more yielded a $600,000.00 reduction from the previous budget.
We are confident that every decision we have made so far, and will make in the future, are the same that any other reasonable, educated citizen of Howell would make if they were in our position. We truly want to have Howell be the best place to live and raise our families and are working diligently to achieve that goal.
Robert Walsh, Mayor
William Gotto, Deputy Mayor
Councilman Juan Malave
Councilman Robert Nicastro
Councilwoman Pauline Smith