By Stephen Moore
Manalapan Town Manager Linda Stumpf does not have all the figures to finalize the town’s 2019-2020 budget, but she does have enough information to propose increasing the tax rate for residents by up to 3.7 percent over last year’s rate.
The increase, which is scheduled to be finalized at the Sept. 18 Town Commission meeting, would place the tax rate at $3.1412 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Last year’s rate was $3.03, and the rollback rate that would keep tax revenues flat year over year is $3.02.
“There will be no raise at all” above the $3.1412 proposal, Mayor Keith Waters said at the July 15 workshop meeting. “We can go down but cannot go up. We try to set the millage rate so it absolutely covers everything, but we don’t know the final numbers yet.”
“The only thing we are waiting on is the cost of our health insurance,” Stumpf said.
In the June 26 budget workshop, Stumpf told the commissioners that the proposed budget was $5.5 million, which is $319,797 more than the previous year. Most of the increase comes from the police pension plan, additional police positions and other upgrades.
The commissioners discussed paying for the overage from the unassigned fund balance or increasing the tax rate. After the June meeting, Waters said, “I’d like for us not to raise the millage rate.”
It was a unanimous decision during the commission’s July 15 meeting to not use the reserves, or unassigned fund balance.
“We discussed it at the last meeting,” Stumpf said. “The commissioners did not want to use the unassigned fund balance. They wanted to use the millage rate and keep the millage rate down.”
Based on last year’s millage rate of $3.03, the town’s share of taxes on a $1 million house would increase from $3,030 to $3,141.
In other business:
• Sandra Foschi, the owner of the former BB&T bank building at 131 S. Ocean Blvd., will have to hold off on renovations until the commission removes a construction moratorium for Plaza Del Mar, the town’s commercial district.
Foschi wants to open a day spa in the building. Stumpf said she can continue to do landscaping maintenance on the property but cannot move forward on overhauling the structure. The commission is expected to lift the moratorium by October.
• The building permit for the property at 1140 S. Ocean Blvd. expired July 10, and the permit extension request was denied. But the commission is giving the owner until Sept. 18 to bring the property up to the minimum standards of compliance by planting trees and shrubbery on the north side of the site. Commissioners want the homeowner to establish a buffer zone. Once that is done, the owner has to apply for another permit.
“On the north and south sides of the property, the contractor came in and took out a lot of shrubbery,” Waters said, “and now there is nothing between the houses on the north and south of the permitted building. We are trying to be fair and what we don’t want to do is put the property in position of starting over. It’s been sitting there for two years. We just need to get them back up to speed. We need to get them to put the trees and shrubbery back.”
• The commission has decided not to meet in August. The next town meeting is scheduled for Sept. 5.