Guttenberg taxpayers will be taxed $5.5 million for a six month, $8.3 million municipal budget which will fund operations until January, when the town will transition to a calendar year budget.
The average homeowner living in Guttenberg will see a $100 increase in their bills for the next six months, said Mayor Gerald Drasheff, after the council introduced the measure at their Aug. 23 meeting.
He said that taxes would be going up around 5.5 percent, which is less than the increase in last year’s third and fourth quarter bills.
“It was a little easier to do, to project just six months than a year.” – Gerald Drasheff
He said that while this budget was straightforward to craft, because many of their large bills are not due until the beginning of the year, their health insurance costs did increase by about 14 percent. Drasheff said that their main provider, Oxford United, made up the bulk of this increase.
Guttenberg Department of Public Works employees received a 3.5 percent raise, which also caused an increase. He said that the police department is currently in arbitration, which will likely make next year’s calendar year budget rise.
Tax refunds to property owners who challenged their tax bills accounted for a $250,000 increase, he said.
Contributions to the Public Employees’ Retirement System were smaller this year, at $42,104, compared to last year’s $54,411, due to the shorter budget period.
“It was a little easier to do, to project just six months than a year,” said Drasheff. “You know what your salaries are going to be.”
Refunds school budget
The council voted to restore $342,517 to the Guttenberg Board of Education budget after it had previously adopted a resolution that would have cut $392,517.
Council Members Donna Florio and John Haberman, a former school employee and former vice president to the school board respectively, abstained from the vote.
The school district, which includes only the Anna L. Klein School, will now only experience a $50,000 cut from their $13 million budget. Taxpayers will be levied $9.3 million, which represents a 7 percent increase from last year.
“We made a really heavy-handed cut in the budget back in May and part of the reason for that was we had some differences of opinion with the school board as to where the cuts were being made,” said Drasheff.
Drasheff said that the board felt that the administrative employees had to also share a part in the cuts being made in teaching staff. He said that Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ramos had done a great job in the school, but they questioned whether their district could afford his $180,000 salary.
After the council made the cuts in May, the school board agreed to work with them on a compromise. The board has since agreed to seek a part-time or shared superintendent to replace Ramos. Ramos has declined to comment on this development.
Drasheff said that four, if not five, classroom positions will be restored with the funds given back to the school board. They include two teachers’ aides, and the gifted and talented and world languages teachers. The monies will also pay for Ramos’ salary while the board seeks his replacement.
“On a positive note, I want to say thank you for the children of Guttenberg,” said school board president Sari Zuckerman at the meeting. “You know that we took a big hit from the state and we had to eliminate many things from the school, but now with the restoration of your money we’re going to be able to restore some very valuable personnel.”
Police officers of the month
Public Safety Director and Township Administrator Michael Caliguiro named Sgt. Juan Barreras, Sgt. Jeffery Lugo, and Inv. Rafael Martinez as officers of the month for July.
He said that the officers had successfully completed a prostitution sting that resulted in the arrest of two women and two men.
“This is not the first time they’ve made such surveillances and raids, and they do an excellent job,” he said.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.