The fiscal year 2000-2001 municipal budget was introduced at last Wednesday's regularly scheduled township council meeting. The spending total of $22.45 million represents an increase of $376,670 from a year ago (up 1.7 percent) - but the increase in expenditures will not come from the pockets of the taxpayers.The current tax rate of $29.31 per $1,000 of assessed value to the average Weehawken home will remain the same for another year.
"Basically, it's a no-change budget," Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. "We were able to hold the line. There are basically no changes."
Turner pointed out that the 1.7 percent increase in expenditures is way below the current national rate of inflation.
The reason that the township has been able to keep the same tax rate stems from an increase in the ratable base over the last 18 months. For the first time since 1991, the township has enjoyed an increase of $36 million in ratables, or taxpaying properties.
The ratable increase comes from the fact that the ARCORP-owned Roseland Properties land along the waterfront was subdivided from two lots into seven lots for possible development. The proposed development has received preliminary approval for its first two phases. Both steps enabled the township to reassess the property at a higher tax rate.
In addition, the Chart House Restaurant made major improvements and re-opened after a horrendous fire in May of 1998, and improvements were made at the Sheraton Suites Hotel, the PaineWebber complex and 300 Boulevard East, all increasing the value of the property.
The reassessed land values put the township's total ratable base at $894 million, up from $857 million a year ago.
"It shows that we're finally seeing some progress in terms of ratables that will result in positive things for Weehawken," Turner said.
What has also helped the township was the state funding given to the homeowners in the form of a tax credit when the state recognized the efforts of the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue squad.
Gov. Christie Whitman's Regional Efficiency Development Incentive (REDI) Program, which offers state grants and loans to help in shared service programs, Weehawken residents received a tax credit of $201.82. The tax credit came as part of the $545,000 the township received as part of the Regional Efficiency Aid Program (REAP).
The REAP program was the first state aid program that enabled municipalities to apply the savings directly to individual tax bills.
"The taxpayers received a benefit from the regionalization and through the REAP credit," Turner said. "It's proof that the process works. This budget insures that the taxpayer is able to keep that tax credit."
Approximately $9.3 million of the municipal budget is raised through taxes. The rest comes from state and federal aid, as well as other revenues.
"In order not to increase taxes, we found areas in which to cut back," Turner said. "It's a little here and there. There are no big cuts and no big increases. But every dollar adds up. Would we like to expand programs? Sure, but we don't want to effect the tax rate. The budget will have zero effect on our current services. We're able to have an extremely tight budget."
Turner said that it was an extraordinary year that enabled the township to hold the line on taxes.
"Can we do that every year? I don't know," Turner said. "We may not be able to do this every year. We went up 3.5 percent last year. We were able to hold the line and we have to see what happens in the future."
The Township Council is set to adopt the budget at the Nov. 20 council session.