The public hearing on the City of Ventnor’s 2017 budget will be held at the March 16 commission meeting at 6 p.m., and is expected to be adopted at the April 13 commission meeting. The adoption date was moved to accommodate the Board of School Estimate Meeting regarding the Ventnor City School District budget.
The City’s budget is expected to increase by less than 3% for a total spending of $30,237,914. Included in this spending is $9.1 million for school and city debt service, uncollected taxes, and statutory and deferred charges as follows: $1.4 million for school debt, $1.83 million for city debt, $2.76 million for uncollected taxes and $3.15 million for statutory and deferred charges which is primarily comprised of employer taxes such as Social Security and Unemployment Insurance, Medicare Insurance, and payments due the State for the Police and Fire and Public Employees retirement systems.
The bulk of the remaining $21 million in expenses is for operating the city. Of this total, $13.7 million is for salary and wages. Public Safety, which includes the city’s police and fire departments, each governed by their respective union contracts, account for over $9 million or 66% of the total salary budget. These Public Safety contracts expired on 12/31/16 and are currently being renegotiated.
The Mayor and Commissioners reviewed this budget very closely to determine if any reductions can be made. They looked at areas where costs can be cut without affecting service to the residents and businesses of Ventnor. 1.4% of the total requested salary and other expenses were taken out of this budget prior to introduction.
The Revenues for the 2017 budget also total $30,237,914 as required to balance and are comprised of surplus, state aid, grants, other local revenues, delinquent tax, school tax, and the local purpose tax levy.
Surplus budgeted for 2017 is down by $470,000 when compared to 2016, an 18.8% decrease; and one cause for the proposed increase in the local tax rate this year. Last year at the public hearing for the 2016 budget, Mayor Holtzman and Commissioners Landgraf and Kriebel, who were candidates for office, expressed dire concern over the amount of surplus being used and strongly urged the governing body not to go that route. They believed using $500,000 more in surplus than what had been used in the prior years’ budget would impact the amount available to the 2017 budget year and it has.
“We ended the year with $841,000 less in surplus than the prior year” said Mayor Beth Holtzman. In addition to using more surplus last year, certain local revenues were not realized as budgeted or had been over-budgeted, affecting the amount of surplus that could have been available.
“Because of this we are using less surplus in the 2017 budget, directly impacting the local tax rate by 2 cents,” added Mayor Holtzman. “To mitigate this 2 cent impact by anticipating more surplus in this year’s budget would not be responsible, could be detrimental to the City operations and may require us to raise taxes in 2018,” said Commissioners Kriebel and Landgraf.
The drop in 2016 local revenues has also affected the amount of revenue that can be anticipated in 2017, for the City is not permitted to anticipate revenue greater than it realized in 2016. For example, ambulance service fees was the most significant of the local revenues that came in lower last year, from the $295,000 that was budgeted in 2016 to $100,000 budgeted in 2017. The decrease in ambulance fees equates to a one cent increase in the local tax rate. Combined, budgeted surplus and other revenues are down by about $950,000, when compared to 2016, accounting for about 4 cents of the increased local tax rate.
“Consequently and after much consideration for our tax payers and the future of the City of Ventnor, this governing body is faced with proposing a local tax rate increase of $.077,” said Mayor Beth Holtzman, adding, “We believe this is required now to move the City forward in a responsible manner, as we implement changes that will allow us to operate efficiently and effectively with financial prudence and integrity, and provide for a financially sustainable future.”
The $.077 tax rate impact to a property owner is based on their individual property assessments. For example a home valued at $300,000 will see their local taxes go up by $231.00 in 2017.
Moving forward, the city is encouraged by the interest that developers and builders have expressed in our city, such as the new restaurants and shops that are opening and the existing ones that continue to thrive, the liquor license auction coming up soon and the new construction throughout the City. All of these will have immediate positive effects on our downtown, residential areas, and our local economy. Meanwhile this administration continues to work towards keeping our city well run, safe, vibrant, clean, and bustling every day.