By PETE WALTON
Bradley Beach plans to raise slightly less in tax revenue for municipal purposes in 2021 than it did in 2020.
At its meeting earlier this week, the Borough Council discussed a budget proposal prepared by Chief Financial Officer Sandra Rice.
“Some may look at it and say the borough is over budgeting,” Rice said. “I don’t feel that way at all. It’s a very fair budget.”
Residential tax ratables in the borough continue to rise, with an increase of seven percent in the last year.
The tax rate for municipal purposes in 2021 will be 45.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, down from 48.1 cents per $100 in 2020.
Rice said that in order to lower the municipal tax rate, the borough would use $1.1 million from its general surplus and $125,000 from the sewer utility surplus.
Council President Al Gubitosi praised Rice for her work on the budget but said he would “still like to find $125,000 somewhere other than from the sewer [surplus].”
Councilman Randy Bonnell said that with the cost of upgrading the borough’s sewer system estimated at up to $15 million, the sewer surplus should not be touched.
“If we take [money] out, we’re going to have to replace it eventually and that’s going to mean bonding,” Bonnell said. “I’m definitely a hard no on taking anything out of the sewer [surplus] until the sewer is fixed.”
The proposed budget includes an increase in spending on engineering services from $30,000 to $100,000, mainly due to infrastructure projects underway and planned in the borough this year.
The allocation for legal services rises from $61,000 to $100,000. The amount to be set aside for buildings and grounds goes up from $99,300 to $150,000, including the cost of replacing the roof of the Carmen A. Biase Center at the municipal complex.
Rice said she was able to save money in the borough clerk’s office budget. She said that funds remaining from the 2020 budget in several categories were helping to keep spending at an even level.
Councilman John Weber recommended that the anticipated tax collection rate be set to the highest possible level since homeowners will make sure to pay their taxes and protect their investments as property values continue to rise.
Mayor Larry Fox said such an increase would be considered.
The council plans to introduce the budget at its next meeting on April 27, and vote on it May 25 following a public hearing.
Also at the meeting, the council appeared to agree on dropping the daily beach badge rate from $13 to $12.
The rate was increased last year as a hedge against lower beach attendance due to the coronavirus response.
Instead, the borough’s beaches experienced record crowds.
Weber was the only council member expressing reservations about the $1 drop in the daily fee.
“Ten dollars is more fair to more families,” he said.
Borough Clerk Erica Kostyz will prepare a resolution on the badge fee for a vote at the May 27 meeting.
Gubitosi announced that the maritime forest at the north end of the beachfront will be dedicated to the late borough mayor Julie Schreck at a May 25 ceremony.