MARGATE – As New Jersey municipalities approach budget preparations, Margate Chief Financial Officer Lisa McLaughlin said she believes the city is in good shape financially and will likely not have a tax increase again this year.
McLaughlin told commissioners at their work session Thursday, Feb. 7 that the city’s yet-to-be-audited fund balance as of Dec. 31, 2018 was $6,820,737, which is $1.6 million more than the prior year.
The increase is mostly due to excess appropriations from two years ago that include unspent salary and wages resulting from a concentrated effort to reduce overtime and employees who retired prior to year’s end.
“That’s good news for us…I think we’re in good shape and I don’t anticipate an increase in the tax rate with such a hefty fund balance,” she said.
Margate resident John Sewell said during the public comment period that in light of the excess fund balance, the city should be reducing taxes for the benefit of residents, especially senior citizens.
“May I remind you that our sister city of Brigantine…has managed to have four straight years of property tax cuts, which enables senior citizens to remain in this town,” he said.
The city averages approximately $35 million in added ratables each year, yet the tax rate has not decreased, he said.
He predicted the 2020 Census would show a reduction in property owners over 65 years of age.
“People want to know where the money’s going,” he said.
In other business, the commissioners discussed a potential hazard posed by protruding bolts on the outfall pipes the Army Corps of Engineers is installing on the beach to correct drainage issues caused after the dune was erected.
Fire Chief Dan Adams said that at the request of Commissioner Maury Blumberg, he inspected the bolts and identified the hazard, but was unable to come up with an easy solution.
Adams said that the city provides three warning signs during the summer season, two of which are located on the pipes and another that is visible approaching the beach. It maintains one sign in the off-season alerting people to the potential hazard.
Although the city is concerned someone could get hurt if they fell against the exposed metal, a solution to the problem is elusive.
“We really don’t have a definitive answer at this time,” Adams said.
Blumberg said the screws could be cut back to within a few threads of the bolt to eliminate the hazard.
“For me, this is easy,” Blumberg said. “The reason the Army doesn’t want to do it is because it is time consuming. They can be cut back and capped so there is less than a half-inch or three-quarters-of-an-inch that protrudes. That will alleviate anyone from getting hurt there.”
Officials said they believe there is no sound engineering reason why the bolts cannot be cut back but cutting into them could cause them to rust out more quickly.
“That’s why they need to be capped,” Blumberg said.
Adams said some of the bolts that have not been cut are already rusting.
Commissioner John Amodeo suggested the bolts could be coated with a protective material to prevent them from rusting.
Amodeo said the city should ask the city’s Joint Insurance Fund attorney to notify the Army Corps of Engineers about the potential safety hazard.
Solicitor John Scott Abbott, who walks the beach every day, said the bolts could be counter-sunk, or covered with a plank of wood to prevent someone from “ripping their leg open.”
“There are just so many of them. Every section has eight or 10 bolts,” Adams said.
Adams said he would meet with city engineer Ed Dennis before contacting the city’s JIF representative.