On Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 the Stone Harbor Borough Council officially adopted the 2015 Municipal and Water/Sewer Utility budgets. Council President/Chairman of Administration and Finance, Barry Mastrangelo thanked all the employees, Department Heads and Council Committees for their tireless efforts to craft a budget that provides a high level of service to the residents, businesses and visitors of Stone Harbor while keeping the tax increase to a minimum. With a unanimous 6-0 vote council approved a $14.6+ million operating budget and a $3.4+ million Water/Sewer budget. The Municipal tax rate will rise slightly by 0.7 cents. The new municipal rate for 2015 will be 23.9 cents per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation. An owner of a home assessed at $1.5 million will pay $3,585 in local taxes this year, up $105.00 from 2014.
Borough Administrator Jill Gougher and Chief Financial Officer James Craft provided a power point presentation to the Public that highlights important aspects of the 2015 budget. Council Committee chairs gave brief summaries which highlighted various increases and in most instances decreases in their respective functional areas.
Gougher explained that the total increase in appropriations s over 2014 was $538,748. Salaries were actually down $156,697.00. Capital projects/Capital Improvement Fund contributions were up $488,500.00. The next biggest increase was in Insurance cost, up $111,686.00. To offset these increases the Borough was able to utilize an additional $153,633 of Fund Balance $28,765 in other revenues. The balance of the appropriation increase will be offset by an additional amount to be raised by taxation of $354,350. According to Gougher the increase in the amount to be raised by taxation is a direct result of the $488,500 increase for capital projects. In fact $300,000 is directly attributable to the down payment required for the $6,000,000 dredging project.
Knowing that the Borough had to cover the expenses involved in such a large project such as the dredging the borough was very fiscally conservative in its spending elsewhere in the budget. The Borough was well below the 5% levy CAP and 3.5% spending CAP allowed by statute.
Chief Financial Officer James Craft highlighted that the Borough currently maintained the 4th lowest municipal tax rate in Cape May County and 2nd lowest of the shore communities. Craft further highlighted that even though the Borough was utilizing an additional $153, 643 of its Fund Balance in 2015, they are still able to maintain 10% of appropriations in reserve as fund balance. This puts the Borough in a strong financial position when seeking short and long term funding for capital projects. Moods Investor Services, one of the major Bond Rating Services recommends having between 5-10% of your current year appropriations in fund balance reserve.
To view the full Power Point Presentation and 2015 Adopted Budget click on links below: