Spending Down, Tax Collection Up
Haddonfield Commissioner Jeff Kasko's state of the borough address.
Commissioner Jeff Kasko, director of finance, state of the borough address delivered at the annual Mayor's Breakfast in January:
In reviewing the borough’s financial status, I can report to you that borough spending last year was slightly down from the year before. After taking into consideration a few end-of-year bills just coming in now, spending in 2012 should decrease somewhere between 1.5 percent and 2 percent compared to 2011, not including grant, capital, or water and sewer utility spending.
In some cases, this is due to fortunate circumstances such as not needing to spend a lot on weather and disaster-related incidents or emergencies. It is also due to our ability to keep certain expenses under control. But I think it is also due to our continued vigilance on keeping the cost of local government services as low as we can through cost-sharing, outsourcing where appropriate, and accepting the fact that we fund what is necessary, proper and expected by taxpayers and not a whole lot more.
On the revenue side, I am happy to report that the 2012 property tax collection rate rose very slightly, which is certainly better news than the year before. As I mentioned then, unpaid taxes end up being a burden on the rest of us because we are required to appropriate a reserve for uncollected taxes for each succeeding year. We got hit with a significant increase on this last year due to the decrease in 2011 collections, but, thankfully, we’ll be spared that additional hit in 2013.
Certain miscellaneous revenues climbed significantly in 2012. Marriage license fees, for instance, were up over 1000 percent. I’m not sure why we had more marriages last year – maybe it had something to do with it being a presidential election year or the Mayan calendar? – but let’s extend our best wishes to the newly married and be grateful for the slight windfall. Other fees were on the upswing, including street opening permits, historic preservation application fees, and construction code fees. While we cannot rely on these amounts remaining the same from year to year, they did help our budget in 2012. And the introduction of parking kiosks on Tanner Street and in borough parking lots last year helped us improve efficiency and collections, with a net parking revenue gain of more than 20 percent over 2011.
There were some decreases in a few miscellaneous revenue categories and in recycling revenue, and state aid remained flat in 2012, but overall, the revenue side of the ledger appears to be fairly stable right now.
On the spending side, we had increases for engineering, unemployment insurance, streets, fire department and street lighting expenses, as well as for debt service, salaries, and employee and retiree health benefit costs. The two notable accounts with decreases were postage and legal services.
I know you like hearing about that one going down. Other spending to operate borough government did not change much from 2011, with some of them slightly decreasing, and operational spending on the library, Mabel Kay Center, Information Center, and Shade Trees remaining about the same.
Capital spending approved in 2012 included repairs to the Mable Kay Center, various road improvements, water and sewer upgrades, and long-awaited repairs and an addition to our historic library building to improve functionality and handicap accessibility.
Moving forward in 2013, we have several budget challenges to face, including the full funding of our own fire inspection official, increased expenses for active and retired employee health benefits, police and fire pension costs, union contract salary increases, and the continued expenses to replace dying shade trees throughout town and improve our roads, infrastructure, recreation facilities, and fields.
As you know, we face these fiscal challenges with state-mandated caps on both municipal budget and property tax increases, and with some national and regional economic uncertainty, so we should be prepared for difficult choices in the years ahead.
As I’ve said, we’ve instituted cost-sharing and privatization in this borough government, and we’ve worked on cutting costs, increasing revenues and bringing efficiency to our operations, but more work will need to be done in the future. I am hopeful that all of us – borough leaders, borough employees and borough taxpayers – will continue to work together, share ideas, consider alternative ways of doing things, and implement solutions that will work in the best interest of all Haddonfield residents – in 2013 and beyond.