Millstone governing body adopts $6.4M budget for 2019

MILLSTONE – The Township Committee has adopted a $6.41 million budget to fund the operation of Millstone Township this year.

Committee members adopted the budget during a meeting on May 1.

The $6.41 million budget will be supported by the collection of $3.13 million in taxes from Millstone Township’s residential and commercial property owners. Other revenue in 2019 will include $841,753 in state aid and the use of $600,000 from surplus funds (savings).

Millstone Township’s 2018 budget totaled $6.34 million and was supported by the collection of $2.59 million in taxes from property owners. Other revenue included $841,753 in state aid and $1.15 million from surplus funds.

The $3.13 million tax levy for 2019 reflects a $541,871 increase from 2018 and is the first change in the tax levy since 2012, according to municipal officials.

In presenting the budget to the public, Chief Financial Officer Annette Murphy said, “The focus of the Township Committee this year is to recognize and address the needs within the township prudently and very cross-consciously, (however,) the seven-year flat tax levy can no longer be sustained.”

In 2018, the municipal tax rate was 13.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in Millstone Township was assessed at $524,271 and the owner of that home paid about $729 in municipal taxes, according to Murphy.

In 2019, the municipal tax rate is projected to be 16.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, according to Murphy, and the average home assessment is estimated to be $527,345. The owner of that home will pay about $881 in municipal taxes.

Municipal taxes are one item on a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Millstone Township K-8 School District taxes, Monmouth County taxes and a fire district tax.

An individual pays more or less in taxes based on the assessed value of his home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

The 2019 budget includes the following appropriations: debt, $1.36 million; public works, $968,345; general government, $956,138; insurance, $877,019; reserve for uncollected taxes, $725,000; Uniform Construction Code, $409,415; statutory expenditures, $286,840; utilities and bulk purchases, $258,500; court and public defender, $129,350; public safety, $125,894; and land use administration, $94,125.

Prior to the committee’s vote to adopt the budget, Mayor Fiore Masci thanked the township’s employees and professionals, including Murphy, Business Administrator Roger Staib, Treasurer and Purchasing Agent Amanda Salerno, and Matt Holman of the auditing firm Holman Frenia Allison, P.C. for their work to develop the budget.

“The overall objective in this township is to be fiscally responsible toward the needs of our community without sacrificing efficiency, service and ultimately enhancing our quality of life,” Masci said. “Those three words (quality of life) are words that many of us on this dais use over and over. If I asked any one of you why you moved to Millstone Township, you are going to say because of the quality of life that is here.

“Millstone has enjoyed seven years of zero tax increases while other communities have adjusted their municipal tax levy each year for an aggregate increase within these years from 11 to as high as 37 percent,” he said.

“As Annette has demonstrated, we cannot sustain this trend. Outside costs continue to rise, no different from costs associated within our own private lives. Operational and infrastructure costs help necessitate the increase of the 2019 budget, but we are committed to saving money. We will also enhance infrastructure to better serve the residents.

“We are going to update our computer system. We are going to install security features. We are going to upgrade old and failing equipment. In addition, we have taken on a very aggressive road repair program for which we have budgeted $1 million. This in spending terms is considerable. However, as petroleum costs rise, so does the cost of asphalt. Therefore, it is incumbent upon our team to purchase the appropriate materials when the bid is at its peak,” Masci said.

“We live in this beautiful community and that doesn’t mean we can’t continually improve,” he said. “That’s something we always want to do, but as more residents move in to Millstone Township, our diversity does grow and so do demands. So it is the Township Committee’s responsibility to balance these challenges with fiscal responsibility at the forefront. This is, at the very least, an arduous, but rewarding task.

“Our master plan and open space will keep us the jewel we are. Outside of our borders, there is a lot of activity going on, whether it’s the Monroe Township side, the Manalapan side or the Jackson side.

“We play a very small role in what we can control that goes on outside of our township. However, we can control what we do here and Millstone will remain that jewel. The bottom line is always maintaining and enhancing the quality of life. That’s what it’s about here, and always being mindful of fiscal responsibility, that is incumbent upon this entire Township Committee,” Masci said.

Millstone Township has 4,079 parcels, of which 3,113 are residential, 620 are farms and 94 are commercial; the average ratio (percent), assessed to true value, is 96.67 percent and indicates how close properties are assessed to 100 percent of their market value.

According to a budget document, Millstone Township has 31 full-time employees and 12 part-time employees; and total personnel costs for 2019 will be $2.4 million (approximately 38 percent) of the $6.41 million budget.

Millstone Township has shared services agreements with Manalapan, the Millstone Township K-8 School District, Monmouth County, Roosevelt and Freehold Township. The agreements cover services Millstone Township provides or receives and include animal control, vehicle maintenance and repairs, road salt, HVAC and electrical maintenance, emergency 911, a certified recycling coordinator, municipal court services and sign making.