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South Orange Residents to see Property Tax Increase Included in 2023 Municipal Budget
By Patrick Tagerty,
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - A property tax increase of 5.69% for village residents is included in the 2023 South Orange municipal budget, which was introduced at last night’s board of trustees meeting.
The budget, which totals $43.3 million, includes the bump in property taxes as a way to offshoot inflation and other rising costs for the village. The increase means the average homeowner in South Orange would owe about $319 more in property tax as compared to 2022.
The village hopes to raise $29.1 million of the total budget from tax collection, according to acting village administrator Julie Doran, who gave the budget presentation to the board. She attributed several areas of the budget as drivers of the tax increase, including recreation operating costs, police salaries and wages, and public works expenses.
Those areas have been impacted by inflation, or in the case of SOPD, contractual overtime payouts. Recreation costs increased by $300,000 over last year due to supplies needed to complete renovations to the village community center, which will open later this year.
Public works saw a similar raise in budget allocation due to the rising cost of fuel needed for municipally owned vehicles. Doran said inflation would need to be considered in budgets going forward, and said the slow economy forced the village to reconsider its sources of income.
“First and foremost we’re always trying to achieve fiscal sustainability,” Doran said. “But in talking about the budget realities, there’s some grim news in there with inflation and healthcare cost increases. But budget planning happens all year, so we know that we need to continue to focus on our nontax revenue sources going forward. But for the time being it looks like inflation is going to be with us.”
Nontax revenue sources include Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) programs, grants, state aid, and more. According to Doran, about $2.7 million in projected revenue will come from PILOTS, which include the Taylor/Vose luxury apartment complex and the Village Hall Tavern & Beer Garden, both of which are now open. Another $1.4 million in revenue will come from already committed grants, with funding allocated for road resurfacing and health services.
Infrastructure and service improvements, along of course with combatting inflation, are two of the major objectives of the budget, according to Doran. The village, she said, wanted to have its priorities reflected in the budget. These include promoting environmental sustainability, delivering effective services to residents, and increasing economic growth in the area.
$240,000 was requested by the village for cleanup efforts in the Rahway River, and several hundred-thousands more is being dedicated to park maintenance and tree replacement projects. Village sewer and storm water systems will also see improvements as a result of a $1.2 million study looking into enhancing their efficacy.
Certain capital projects within the village were represented in the budget as well, including operating costs for the nearly completed reconstruction of the community center. A portion of the $2.7 million dollar capital budget will also go to the repaving of village roads, curbs and sidewalks.
The reopening of the renovated Baird community center is also expected to be a boon for the village, with associated fees projected to increase revenue, according to Doran. Court fees are similarly expected to contribute to village revenue, Doran said, as progress continues to be made working through a backlog of cases caused by the pandemic.
Members of the public will have a chance to comment on the budget at the next board of trustees meeting on March 27. The budget will be put to a final vote on April 10.