EGG HARBOR CITY — When City Council held its first budget meeting Feb. 25, it was projecting a steep property tax rate increase of 12.8 cents per $100 of assessed value.
City officials projected a much less severe increase Thursday, with potential for greater savings still.
Jodi Kahn, the city’s chief financial officer, said funds could be used from the sale of two city properties ($38,000) and from the Egg Harbor City North development ($94,000).
Additionally, “when the water utility is sold, those funds can be used to eliminate our existing debt,” Kahn said. “Using those funds, as well as anticipated additional revenue from the court, would drop the tax increase to 5.5 cents per $100 of property valuation.”
Council members voted unanimously Thursday to introduce a 2021 budget with the 5.5 cent increase. The council will hold a public hearing on the budget April 22, as well as a budget workshop before the meeting to discuss possible changes.
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With a 5.5 cent increase, a home assessed at the median value of $116,450 would see a $64 local tax increase for the year. That does not include property taxes paid to Atlantic County, the city school district, the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District or other taxing entities.
Councilman Scott Trythall suggested removing a new police officer from the budget to help offset the tax increase.
“This officer wouldn’t be on the street until 2022 anyway,” Trythall said. “Other area police departments have hiring freezes right now. With salary, benefits and equipment, a new officer could cost more than $100,000.”
Mayor Lisa Jiampetti said the new officer was necessary to maintain a 16-member department.
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“It won’t cost that much as there are more economical means if the hiring complies with Civil Service rules,” Jiampetti said. “I don’t want to see the safety of Egg Harbor City residents jeopardized. And as mayor, I have final say on the Police Department.”
The city expects to receive $398,000 in COVID-19 relief funds for 2020 and 2021. However, city officials are unclear on exactly what those funds can be used.
“I believe it can be used to keep essential personnel and any other COVID-related issues including revenue losses,” Jiampetti said.
“If allowed, we could also use those funds instead of the money from the land sales and Egg Harbor City North funds,” Kahn said.
There is also a possibility that those funds could be used to lower, or possibly eliminate, the proposed 5.5 cent tax rate increase.