By Larry Barszewski

New gatehouse security guards, increased wages for town workers, and planning money for a town sewer system are all included in a new $7.3 million Manalapan town budget effective Oct. 1.
Town commissioners on Sept. 27 approved the 25.2% general fund budget increase along with a reduced property tax rate of $3 for every $1,000 of assessed value — a rate that will increase taxes paid to the town by 21.2%.
Mayor Keith Waters said much of the increase is being shouldered by new property owners in town, where property values soared 28.2% this year, fueled by the pandemic’s heated housing market.
“We are delighted, with what’s going on in the community, to lower the millage (property tax) rate and at the same time provide additional funding for the operation of the town,” Waters said.

Related: South County's new tax rates, taxes and budgets

The commission lowered the tax rate 5.3%, from $3.17 per $1,000 of assessed value, which will reduce the tax bill of property owners with homestead exemptions.
However, more than half the properties in town are not homesteaded, making them less protected from higher taxes.
The new budget includes:
• $264,532 for a contract with Cambridge Security Services Corp. to provide services at the town’s gatehouse on Point Manalapan. Commissioners approved the contract at a special meeting Sept. 16 after receiving complaints about the previous company.
• A 5% raise for all employees and a 5% “one-time inflation adjustment” for them. Unlike a salary increase, the inflation adjustment — or bonus — will not be added to an employee’s base salary. The authority for the inflation adjustment was approved by commissioners at the special meeting Sept. 16.
• $593,684 for capital equipment and improvements. Among the capital items are $166,684 to renovate the Police Department squad room, $143,865 to replace two police vehicles and the town manager’s vehicle, and $60,000 for a new generator.
• A $520,000 transfer to the utility fund to cover some of the professional service fees for work being done with the town’s septic-to-sewer project, and for other utility project capital costs.
Under the approved tax rate, the town is expected to collect $5.6 million in property taxes, which is $1 million more than in the previous year.
The commission approved a total town budget of $14.5 million. Besides the general fund budget, which covers nuts-and-bolts expenses of town government supported in part by property tax collections, the town has a utility fund budget of $7.1 million and a library fund budget of $61,500.
In other action, the commission voted to no longer require Ocean Boulevard property owners seeking to create or demolish a pedestrian passageway under State Road A1A — connecting the eastern and western portions of a property — to go before the town’s Architectural Commission for approval.
Officials said that commission’s review isn’t necessary since the tunnels aren’t visible. The tunnels still must adhere to other existing town building regulations and reviews.

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