The Byram Township Council unanimously adopted its $11.9 million municipal budget for 2021.
There will be a 0.89 increase in the municipal tax, with an estimated increase of around $17 for the average assessed home of $254,000, township manager Joseph Sabatini said at the April 6 meeting.
He residents will find supporting documentation at the township website (byramtwp.org), under 2021 municipal budget information.
He said Covid-19 lowered anticipated revenues of interest income and court revenues. One-time items on the appropriations side helped off-set the reduction in revenue:
● $20,000 reduction in eliminating a full-time administration position, budgeting for a part-time recreation leader, and eliminating full-time employee health benefits.
● $73,000 reduction for retiring police department officers and reducing the police over-time budget.
● $106,000 reduction in the group insurance program by moving to the state health care benefit program.
● $20,000 reduction in first aid contributions.
● $284,400 reduction in capital projects, which Sabatini said will be an issue in the future if the township does not try to fund the capital budget more.
The budget also includes:
● $110,430 anticipated fund raising with the 2021 Open Space Tax.
● $84,844 increase in pension obligations of around 13 percent.
● A three-year capital improvement plan, with an aggressive capital budget for 2021.
Deputy Mayor Raymond Bonker said despite the pandemic and “the state jamming a 13 percent pension increase down our throats,” the administration had kept tax levy increase low. Also, for the first time, he said, the budget includes full sports equality.
Councilman Jack Gallagher said between last year and this year, the increase was “probably a net zero.”
Councilman Harvey Roseff said he thought the township could serve residents better by delivering recreation services differently. He was not sure if a part-time or even a full-time recreation position was “the way to go,” and said he looked forward to discussing other options.
Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said the pension numbers were “beyond outrageous,” but the township had to accept them with no representation or discussion. “No one wants to see taxes go up,” he said. “Considering all that has been going on,” he added, it was a “small increase.”
Bonker asked the municipal auditor, Ray Sarinelli, to explain why it was unlikely for Byram to go from a AA+ credit rating to a AAA credit rating.
Sarinelli said Byram is limited in the rateables. Typically the AAA rating has an average of $5.2 billion rateables, and “Byram is well shy of $5.2 billion.”
Bonker noted the total assessed value of Byram is under $1 billion.