Old Bridge budget keeps tax rate stable, includes funding for new police officer

The Old Bridge municipal tax rate will remain stable in 2019 in a budget that includes funding for a new police officer and a new employee for the Public Works Department.

“I think this budget speaks volumes,” Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry said. “It says a lot of things are going on in town, a lot is going on in our administration and a lot is going on with the Township Council.”

Council members adopted a $57.41 million budget after a second reading and public hearing on March 25.

Old Bridge officials will collect $34.31 million in taxes from Old Bridge’s residential and commercial property tax owners in 2019 to help fund the municipal budget.

The budget that was adopted by the council in 2018 totaled $55.35 million and included a $34.17 million tax levy. From 2018 to 2019, the total budget is up $2.06 million and the total amount to be collected from taxpayers is up $140,000.

Old Bridge will receive $6.27 million in state aid for 2019. Officials said state aid has remained flat since 2014. Officials will use $7 million from surplus funds (savings) as revenue in the budget in 2019, after using $6.75 million from surplus as revenue in the 2018 budget.

Business Administrator Himanshu Shah said the municipal tax rate will remain stable at $1.056 per $100 of assessed valuation.

In 2018, the average home in Old Bridge was assessed at $154,165 and the owner of that home paid $1,628 in municipal taxes.

If 2019, the average home in Old Bridge is still assessed at $154,165 and the owner of that home will continue to pay $1,628 in municipal taxes.

With a municipal tax rate of $1.056, the owner of a home that is assessed at $250,000 in 2019 will pay about $2,640 in municipal taxes and the owner of a home that is assessed at $350,000 in 2019 will pay about $3,696 in municipal taxes.

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes Old Bridge school taxes, Middlesex County taxes, a library tax and a fire district tax.

The amount of taxes an individual pays is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

Municipal taxes account for 20% of the total taxes that are paid by a property owner, Shah said.

Shah said salaries and wages make up 40% of the municipal budget. That line item has increased by $699,623 from $22.6 million in 2018 to $23.3 million in 2019. Public safety (includes police) is the largest department/expenditure percentage of the budget at 24%, or $13.9 million.

In addition to contractual increases, the 2019 budget includes funding for one new full-time patrol officer in the police department, one new part-time intern position in engineering and one new full-time position in the Public Works Department, Shah said.

The other expenditure category has increased by $275,137 from $17.9 million in 2018 to $18.1 million in 2019. The major increase under the expenditure category is group health insurance, which increased by $200,150.

“This year’s budget is one we can all be proud of,” Henry said. “It continues to improve the financial picture of Old Bridge. We continue to meet the needs of our community with top quality services, we are recognized around the state for our programs, we provide a positive atmosphere and [the budget] provides everyone an opportunity to grow and prosper.”

Shah said that in addition to financial goals, officials have set non-financial goals, which include improving customer service with residents.

Councilman Brian Cahill said that during three public budget workshop meetings, officials went through a transparent process of combing through the budget line by line.

“Good ideas were exchanged and [good questions were] asked,” Cahill said. “At the end of the day, this is a very sound budget.”

New ratables in Old Bridge are estimated at approximately $11.9 million.