Taxes drop in Kearny for first time in 17 years

KEARNY — Property owners in Kearny got some startling news with their third quarter tax bills for 2018.

A letter from Mayor Alberto Santos enclosed with the bills said that, “For the first time in 17 years, your calendar year property taxes have decreased.”

At last week’s meeting of the town’s governing body, Santos said that on the average home, the municipal portion of the tax bill (38%) is down by $69, the county share (15%) is reduced by $76 and the school component (47%) is flat, thereby accounting for an average drop of about $145.

That achievement was marked as the mayor and Town Council voted for adoption of the 2018 municipal budget Tuesday, July 18. Total appropriations were listed as $74,790,451 of which $43,398,654 must be raised in local taxation.

Santos cited these reasons for this year’s tax breakthrough:

  • “Growing tax revenues from strong real estate valuations.” The municipal budget lists a total of $17,595,200 in “new ratables — increase in valuations (new construction and additions).”
  • “Annual payments to the town in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), which were used to spur economic redevelopment on Passaic and Bergen avenues and South Kearny, which will soon exceed $1 million.” For 2018, the town anticipates collecting $578,000 in PILOT revenues.
  • “… the state has made the town whole for tax-sharing payments due from the Meadowlands District.” Kearny anticipates receiving $200,000 in tax-sharing funds for 2018.
  • Keeping overall municipal expenditures “flat for the fifth year in a row.”

While municipal expenses were largely kept in check, there were some categories that saw increases over which the town had little or no control because of contractual obligations with the state, vendors and employee unions.

As examples, Kearny’s contribution to civilian employee pensions is projected to rise by about $40,000 in 2018; police and firefighter pensions, up by about $881,000; unemployment insurance, up by $30,000; legal services, up by $75,000; engineering services, up by $45,000; insurance, up by $72,000; police and firefighter salaries and benefits, up by $950,000 and construction code enforcement salaries, up by $66,000.

Looking ahead, Santos said in his letter to taxpayers, “The Council and I are aware that the confluence of positive factors which resulted in this year’s tax decrease may not recur in 2019.

“For that reason, we will continue to monitor carefully all expenditures in order to provide municipal services in a cost-effective manner. We will also maintain a healthy reserve fund in the event there are unforeseen circumstances.”

The mayor reminded residents that the state “offers various property tax relief programs including the Senior Freeze … for property owners who are 65 and older.”

For information on these programs, visit the state’s website, or in the tax collector’s office in the basement of Kearny Town Hall.

Learn more about the writer ...