By Ron Leir
Now that Trenton – even without a gubernatorial endorsement by the town’s Democratic mayor – has gifted Kearny $2.5 million in transitional aid and reduced its pension obligations by nearly $435,000, Kearny property owners can know what to expect.
They’re still getting a tax increase, just not as severe as the town had feared before receiving the state’s largess.
According to calculations by town CFO Shuaib Firozvi, of a total 2014 budget of $75.8 million, $40.8 million must be raised by local taxation, which is up by 3% from last year’s $39.6 million.
But, because the town’s ratable base declined by about $7 million between 2013 and 2014, the actual municipal tax levy increased by about 3.74%, Firozvi said.
And that, in turn, means that the owner of a house assessed at $100,000 will pay a total property tax (including municipal, school and county components) of $10,035 in 2014, which is $244 more than the $9,791 in tax paid for 2013, the CFO said.
The municipal portion of the tax rate for a house as sessed at $100,000 will be $3,872 – an increase of $139 from the $3,733 in municipal taxes paid in 2013, Firozvi said.
Last Tuesday, the town’s governing body amended its municipal budget to include the $2.5 million in state transitional aid as additional revenue and thereby reduced the amount it needed to raise by local taxation, from about $43.9 million to about $40.8 million. (Kearny had sought $3 million in transitional aid.)
As a result of the state’s recalculation of the town’s pension contributions, Kearny will see a reduction of $76,642 to the Public Employees’ Retirement System (civilian workers) and of $358,138 to the Police and Fireman’s Retirement System for a total savings of $434,780, according to Firozvi.
The town also will see a savings of $260,000 in its employee health benefits appropriation but will pay $33,579 more for debt service and capital improvements, he said.
“Considering where we were a few months ago, and given that we’re continuing to provide the same services to taxpayers, [Tuesday] night’s result was a good result,” Mayor Alberto Santos said. The pension adjustment “was unrelated to our transitional aid application,” he added.
Now that the final form of the budget has been adopted, Santos said the town is awaiting certification of the municipal tax rate by the Hudson County Tax Board before preparing, printing and mailing out tax bills to local property owners.
Assuming that the tax board gives its approval by this week, “the bills will probably go out by the first week of August and the due date (for third quarter 2014 bills) will probably be the first week of September,” Santos said.
A consequence of getting the aid is that Kearny must accept a state monitor who has final say over future hirings and major expenditures by the town. One issue that the monitor, Steven Ponella, will be asked to review is a request by Fire Chief Steven Dyl to hire one captain and two firefighters to fill vacancies created by two retirements and one resignation.
Santos said: “The chief has made a good argument for [filling those slots], given the amount of overtime being spent, but it remains to be seen what the state tells us.”
Another position the town has been actively trying to fill is that of parking violation enforcement officer. When the town advertised for applicants about a month ago, it got “over 100” applicants from Kearny and Newark (its priority hiring territory established under a court decree) and “probably over 200 from the extended area,” Santos said. State law now requires that, as a newly “non-competitive” position, “if there are qualified veterans in the applicant pool, they be given preference,” he added. “There are nine veterans in the mix.” The full-time post pays $24,964 a year to start plus benefits.
In other business, the mayor and council voted to purchase a new dump truck with snow plow and salt spreader attachments from Deluxe International Trucks of Hackensack for $227,021. The vendor submitted the lowest of bids received by the town on May 9.