CFO: No municipal tax uptick but …


The Harrison governing body voted May 2 to adopt its 2017 municipal budget of $42,895,612, up from last year’s budget of $42,793,421.

But the amount to be raised by local taxes, $18,895,540, is nearly the same as last year’s figure of $18,895,453, and town CFO Gabriela Simoes has projected that translates to a reduction in the municipal tax rate of $280 on the “average” house assessed at about $140,000.

However, before local property owners can get too excited about those numbers, Simoes offered another not-so-fortunate forecast: Local school taxes – projected by the Harrison Board of School Estimate at about $9.3 million for 2017 – will account for a tax hike of $230 on the average house.

With the county share of local taxes assumed to be flat, the bottom line for property owners comes out to an overall increase of about $180 on the average house, Simoes said.

“Potentially,” she said, “it could be less. Our tax bills won’t go out until the county strikes the rate.”

Meanwhile, in other business that transpired at the May 2 municipal meeting, the mayor and council voted to:

Adopt an ordinance updating water and sewer utility connection fees, based on projected flow, for residential units (single-family homes, duplexes, townhouses and condominiums);  hotels, motels and boarding homes; camps; restaurants and clubs; hospitals; schools; gas stations; commercial facilities; houses of worship; theaters; sport stadium; and commercial pools to recover debt service fees. Since the last increase in 2014, the town has collected more than $1 million in fees, mostly from new construction in its waterfront development area, according to Simoes and town attorney Paul Zarbetski.

Adopt an ordinance updating and codifying “extra-duty” assignments for police officers by fixing police services rate at $88 per hour per officer (of which the town keeps $14 as an “administrative” fee); $100 per police vehicle to the town for up to a maximum of eight hours; setting the “minimum” number of hours for an extra-duty assignment at four hours. Exceptions are that Red Bull Arena shall pay $70 per hours per police officer and/or per firefighter, of which the town keeps $10); the Harrison school district shall pay $35 an hour; and the town may charge $55 per hour “subject to the discretion of the chief of police and the town,” with no administrative fee charged.

The mayor and council also voted to introduce ordinances that, subject to public hearing and final adoption, will:

Grant Harrison Building 6 Urban Renewal LLC (a subsidiary of The Pegasus Group) in the waterfront development district, a long-term PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) beginning at about $950,000 a year, starting in 2019, for the residential component of the project (270 studio, one- and two-bedroom market rental apartments). An escalator clause will drive up that fee each year. An additional fee will be generated for the commercial component. The town is pocketing about $2 million annually from Buildings 1 and 3 and anticipates an additional $1.3 million from Building 5, which is almost completed. Two other residential structures (Building 4 and the 2B garage wrap-around are still to come.

Ratify a new 5-year labor contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016, with the town’s Civil Service civilian employees that provides for no wage increases in 2016 but annual 2% raises for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. As examples, here’s how maximum pay over the life of the contract would change for these jobs:building sub-code official/zoning officer, $96,496 to $104,451; municipal court administrator, $96,542 to $104,500; heavy equipment operator, $84,931 to $91,933; public works supervisor, $101,109 to $109,444; systems analyst IT, $95,238 to $103,089; library director, $91,324 to $98,851; parking enforcement officer, $79,517 to $86,072; registered environmental health specialist, $79,582 to $86,142; superintendent of recreation, $86,106 to $93,205.

Authorize refinancing of $6.2 million of outstanding principal of a 2009 school bond issue “to secure a more favorable interest rate,” as explained by Simoes, to achieve a projected annual savings of $30,000 (over and above professional fees) through the remaining period of maturation of the bonds, running through 2020.

The governing body also contracted with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.J. to provide dental insurance coverage to town employees, retirees and dependents from May 1, 2017, to April 30, 2018, for $240,000.

And it applied for a $1 million matching grant from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund to help finance the proposed Waterfront Cape May St. Park/Walkway Acquisition Project. Harrison has previously been awarded a total of $1,038,225 in state Green Acres funding for the project.

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