No municipal tax increase in North Arlington

North Arlington has introduced a “zero increase” 2013 municipal budget that cuts the borough’s annual tax levy by $203,000, it was announced by the borough.

A borough press release said that the amount of local taxation needed to support municipal spending in 2013 would decline, from last year’s $15,359,927 to $15,155,998. And the overall municipal budget, which was introduced March 14, would drop by $715,679 to $20,149,434.

If no further amendments are made by the governing body, the average tax bill for municipal services only is expected to remain about the same as last year — $3,259 – but the average property owner can expect their 2013 tax bill to register increases for school and county expenses, according to borough spokesman Thom Ammirato.

Last year’s budget included $22.23 million to operate borough schools and a $3.56 million county tax levy.

A public hearing to adopt the 2013 municipal budget has yet to be scheduled.

Borough Council President/ Budget Committee Chairman Al Granell said the local budget committee worked hard with the borough’s financial professionals to craft a spending plan designed not to hike taxes.

“Our goal at the start of the year was to give residents tax relief and we have achieved that goal,” he said. “This is an honest budget that puts us on sound financial footing as we try to grow our tax revenue base through redevelopment.”

There are no cuts to municipal services or programs in the proposed budget.

The budget includes a 50% increase in funding for recreation programs and the first phase of funding to cover $450,000 in expenses related to Superstorm Sandy. The borough is hoping for at least partial reimbursement of storm-related costs from FEMA.

Although borough employees contributed $220,000 to their health insurance coverage, the budget does reflect a $54,000 increase in health benefits due to premium hikes in the state health benefits program.

To reduce the borough’s debt burden, the council budget committee added nearly $250,000 beyond the statutory minimum to retire current debt.

The budget committee also earmarked $25,000 to address redevelopment issues, such as establishing an inventory of properties available for redevelopment and efforts to market those properties.

Councilman Peter Norcia said the borough’s financial future is keyed to its ability to attract developers and “increase revenue to the borough from economic growth….”

Granell said he expects the borough to begin aggressively seeking developers this year for meadowlands property that was turned over to North Arlington late last year: the former Bergen County baler site and the old Bethlehem Steel site.

“I also want to begin finding developers willing to invest in underutilized properties on Ridge Road [such as the vacant Ridge Lumber Co.] and other main arteries in the borough. The sooner we start talking to developers, the sooner we can bring in more tax revenue that will relieve the burden on homeowners,” Granell said.

–Ron Leir

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