Allentown council adopts $2.48 million budget for 2019

ALLENTOWN – The Allentown Borough Council has adopted a $2.48 million budget to fund the operation of the municipality during 2019.

Council President Thomas Fritts, Councilwoman Angela Anthony, Councilman Michael Drennan, Councilman John A. Elder III and Councilman Robert Strovinsky voted to adopt the budget during a meeting on April 30. Councilman Rob Schmitt was absent.

Chief Financial Officer June Madden, Mayor Greg Westfall and Drennan discussed various aspects of the spending plan.

In 2018, the municipal budget totaled $2.47 million and was supported through the collection of $1.54 million in taxes from Allentown’s residential and commercial property owners. Other revenue in the budget included $393,000 from surplus funds (savings) and the receipt of $131,595 in state aid.

The  2018 municipal tax rate was 79.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $290,270 paid $2,319 in municipal taxes.

The 2019 budget totals $2.48 million and will be supported through the collection of $1.58 million in taxes from Allentown’s residential and commercial property owners.

Other revenue in the budget includes $375,000 from surplus funds and the receipt of $131,595 in state aid.

Madden said the 2019 municipal tax rate is projected to be 82.11 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in Allentown is now assessed at $290,842 and the owner of that home will pay $2,388 in municipal taxes this year – an increase of $69 from last year.

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill. Allentown property owners also pay Upper Freehold Regional School District taxes and Monmouth County taxes, among other assessments.

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

According to the budget presentation, school taxes account for 62% of every $1 a property owner pays in taxes. Municipal taxes account for 26%, county taxes account for 11% and open space taxes account for 1%.

Municipal officials said the budget is in compliance with the 2% tax cap levy law.

During the public hearing for the budget, resident Tom Monahan asked if Allentown is paying any amount toward school security costs for the Upper Freehold Regional School District.

Allentown and Upper Freehold Township are the constituent municipalities that comprise the school district. Students of high school age who live in Millstone Township attend Allentown High School on a tuition basis.

Fritts said the school district “is being subsidized by Upper Freehold Township” for security costs, and added, “I don’t believe it is the municipality’s job to provide school security. It should be in the school budget.”

There was some discussion among council members regarding payments Allentown might make to the school district for school security costs at some point.

The issue has been listed for discussion at executive (closed) sessions of the council in recent months, but has not been discussed in depth in open session.

In response to a question from the Examiner, “Does the 2019 Allentown budget includes a specific payment to the school district to be used for school security during the 2019-20 school year?” Madden said the budget does not include a specific amount of funding for school security.

A budget document provided by the borough provides additional information, including the following: Allentown has 697 parcels, of which 594 are residential and 39 are commercial; the average ratio (%), assessed to true value, is 98.32%, of which Madden said, “this is good, this is where we should be,” and reflects the fact that properties are assessed at almost 100% of their market value; Allentown has 10 full-time employees (five police officers) and 22 part-time employees; and total personnel costs for 2019 will be $1.316 million (approximately 53% of the budget).

Allentown has shared services agreements with the Upper Freehold Regional School District (crossing guard); Monmouth County (records information system); Robbinsville (automotive repairs); Upper Freehold Township (construction code official and municipal court services); the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office (dispatch/911); Plumsted Township (chief financial officer); Upper Freehold Fire Services (fire coverage/inspections); Freehold Township (EMS-Everbridge emergency alert system); and New Jersey SEM (energy aggregation).