MARGATE – The city introduced its $32.8 million municipal budget last week with a small tax rate decrease.
The amount to be raised by taxes is up less than 1 percent, $181,952, and the local purpose tax rate will decrease one-tenth of a cent to 61.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, according to auditor Leon Costello of Ford Scott & Associates, LLC of Ocean City.
“Financially you are sound. It’s a good budget. There are no gimmicks in it. It’s nice and clean and provides financial stability,” he said when the budget was introduced Thursday, March 7.
Commissioner John Amodeo thanked department heads who helped to formulate budgets for their departments.
Previously, Administrator Richard Deaney said ratification of several bargaining unit contracts will help keep costs down in future years.
With the number of step increases brought up 16 steps in the new contracts, the city will save money when it hires new police and firefighters, Amodeo said.
“We will realize a lot of new savings in the next 12-15 years,” he said.
According to Chief Financial Officer Lisa McLaughlin the retirements of several employees has made way for the hiring of new employees at much lower salaries.
McLaughlin said the city maintains a healthy fund balance and will apply $3 million to the 2019 municipal budget.
“With fund balance we have a lot of strength moving forward,” Amodeo said.
The budget was also helped with an increase in the total assessed valuation of the city.
Ratables increased in 2018 by $34 million to $3,709,501,700. The average residential assessment increased to $534,798 from $530,900 last year. The average homeowner will pay $3,305 for municipal taxes this year.
Highlights of the budget include the reduced cost of salary and wages for police and firefighters.
Police Department salary and wages is down $184,778 from last year, and Fire Department salary and wages is down $77,400.
Salary and wages for the Planning Department increased $31,800 due to the expiration of a shared-services agreement with Ventnor City for the shared use of Zoning Officer Roger McLarnon.
McLaughlin said the city has budgeted additional funds to hire an assistant in the Finance Office, and the salary and wages line item for the Clerk’s Office increased about $40,000 for an assistant.
Salary and wages for the Director of Public Works, Parks and Property increased $64,200, which represents salary paid to Mayor Michael Becker’s new part-time executive assistant.
The cost of providing health insurance to employees increased $81,238, however, the city budgeted $320,000 less than last year.
“I cut it back a bit because we always have money left over. We now have about 20 employees who waive coverage, and people often move in and out of the health insurance programs,” McLaughlin said. “Additionally, the amount employees are required to contribute toward their health costs has increased.”
The city’s salary and wages line item for Public Buildings and Grounds decreased $100,000 due a retirement last year.
McLaughlin also said water and sewer rates will remain the same for the sixth year in a row.
“We still remain one of the lowest in the area,” she said.
A public hearing on the budget will be held 4 p.m. Thursday, April 4.