These remarks were made by Mayor Jeff Kasko, the borough director of finanance, at the 42nd Annual Mayors Breakfast on Saturday:
Last year, we passed a $15.5 million borough budget that was a little over one-percent higher than the previous year’s budget. Borough program and service levels remained essentially the same, and staff levels remained constant, with the exception of hiring two sorely needed, part-time Public Works employees. Increases in wages, health benefit costs, and capital improvement outlays, and a $19 million decrease in property ratables, were great challenges last year.
Our fiscal challenges in 2014 will be similar. In particular, our water and sewer budget, which is separate from the municipal government budget, will be difficult, due to a lower usage of water last year and the continuing need to repair and modernize our very old water and sewer pipes.
The good news is that the revenue side of the municipal budget looks good. Increased receipts from construction and permit fees, parking meters, cable TV franchise fees, and delinquent taxes should help minimize any property tax increases. And I am most pleased to report that property ratables are not decreasing to the extent they did last year and our 2013 tax collection rate increased over the previous year.
Last year’s capital improvement plan – other than water and sewer -- included more than $4.5 million for repairing and upgrading roads, facilities, fire gear, public works equipment, athletic fields, and the public library building, with work on that to finally begin this spring.
The borough’s business district corporation, the Partnership for Haddonfield, continues to operate with the same business tax as in past years -- no increase. While Partnership board members continue to seek ways to improve operations, last year’s retail and professional events, business recruitment and retention programs, and marketing and public relations initiatives were all successful in helping our downtown remain one of the region’s best destinations for working, shopping and dining.
Lastly, as promised, I would like to update you on the latest Bancroft proposal, which involves the utilization of county open space funds to purchase most of the property. In my most recent conversation with county officials, I was told that the two appraisals of the property have been completed and forwarded last month to Trenton for review.
Once state officials at the Department of Environmental Protection review them and certify an approved value for the land, the county can begin negotiating with Bancroft and with us over the future of the property. I remain hopeful that a workable, affordable solution that does not raise property taxes is on the horizon.