Hopatcong Budget Has $38 Tax Hike for Average Home
Public hearing set for April 3; spending plan tops $16.5 million.
The owner of a home assessed at the Hopatcong borough average could see their property taxes rise $38 this year, based on the 2013 municipal budget introduced by the council.
The $16.556 million spending plan calls for $12.4 million in property taxes, a 3-percent increase from 2012.
Overall the 2013 budget is $376,767 larger than the 2012 budget.
The public hearing on the budget, when the council will vote on adoption, is scheduled for April 3.
Borough auditor Paul Lerch said the Borough Council and administration brought the budget in below the state-mandated tax levy cap. Under that law, which called for a 2-percent cap on the amount of new taxes from year to year, the council could have raised $12.9 million in taxes, instead the levy is $530,689 below the cap.
State aid for the budget is flat, at $953,270, and the council used an additional $250,000 from surplus to balance the budget. For 2013 the council plans to use $1.3 million from surplus.
Complicating the budget plan is the ongoing reassessment that has lowered property values across the borough. In 2012 the average home was assessed at $309,000. For 2013, the average assessment is $214,600.
But, Lerch said, the borough restated the 2012 tax rate by 26 cents to incorporate the lower assessments, which impacted the 2013 tax rate.
The restatement raised the 2012 tax rate from 60.3 cents to 86 cents.
The tax rate hike for 2013 is 88.6 cents for $100 of assessed value, or 2.6 cents higher than last year.
“This is a good budget,” said Mayor Sylvia Petillo. “We worked hard to get to $38.”
An owner of a home assessed at the borough average can expect to pay $1,901 in municipal taxes in 2013.
All borough services were retained, even though some funding was cut in each department, she said.
“There are no cut-backs even though the funding will be less,” she said. “They may be administered a little differently.”
Resident Barbara Loring, who lives along Lake Hopatcong, said the reassessment of her home could add $2,000 to her 2014 tax rate. As a person living on a fixed income, she said, repeated increases of that size would drive her from Hopatcong.
Petillo said the reassessment is for now a one-time event designed to level out the borough’s property values and should also level out future tax hikes.
The council also introduced an ordinance calling for spending $80,000 on new computer equipment for the police department. The funds will be taken from the capital surplus account, said administrator Robert Elia.
That account is where unspent capital funds are placed, if, for example, a project costs less than was budgeted. No additional tax dollars were placed in the budget for the purchase, he said.