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VENTNOR – The Board of Commissioners Thursday, April 11 introduced its $31.3 million municipal budget with a slight tax rate decrease. Combined with reductions in school and county taxes, the tax rate could drop as much as 5 cents, auditor Leon Costello of Ford-Scott Associates said.

“Wow, that’s wonderful,” Mayor Beth Holtzman said.

Commissioners thanked Costello for suggesting the city issue $21 million in bonds to finance public works and school capital projects, which relieved the school district of raising taxes to fund its 5-year capital improvement plan.

“You have guided us so well, it’s beyond explanation,” Commissioner Lance Landgraf said. “You really helped us right the ship over the last three years.”

When the commissioners prepared their first budget in 2017 six months after taking office, it came in with a 7.7-cents tax rate increase. At the time, Mayor Beth Holtzman said the increase would set the city up for better budgets in the future. The 2018 budget included a 1.12 percent tax rate decrease.

Spending in the 2019 budget is up one-half of one percent, or $164,994, and the amount to be raised through taxation increased $39,936 to $24,105,110.

Aided by a $6.5 million increase in ratables and a number of police and firefighter retirements, the tax rate will decrease two-tenths of a cent to $1.119 for each $100 of assessed valuation. The average residential assessment increased slightly from $298,600 last year to $303,758 this year, with the average homeowner paying $3,399 in municipal taxes this year.

The city applied $2.64 million in surplus funds to support the budget and retains $2 million in reserve.

“The surplus alone would be 1.5 cents on the tax rate,” Mayor Beth Holtzman said on Tuesday. “It’s wonderful that we could reduce taxes, even though it’s just a little. But the school tax rate decrease, which was only possible because the city bonded those capital improvements, is 3.5 cents.”

Costello said the school bond issue saved the average homeowner $840 over the last two years.

The city has been notified that the county tax rate could also be reduced as much as 1 cent, although final figures are not available at this time.

A detailed presentation on the budget and a public hearing will be held 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9.