By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – The city approved its 2022 municipal budget May 12, settled litigation brought by residents over an electrical inspection they said caused damage to their property, and raised salaries paid to members of the Beach Patrol.
Auditor Leon Costello said the $33.2 million total budget, which includes a slight tax rate increase on the municipal side, was “miles under the caps,” and required no cuts to municipal services or programs.
“It’s a straight clean budget,” Costello said.
The total budget was helped with a reduction of about 3 cents on the school district tax rate due to a credit received for tuition paid for students attending Atlantic City High School, and a $30 million increase in the ratable base due to new construction. The city’s current total assessed valuation is $2.095 billion. Costello said the city is on track to see the same ratable increase next year.
“That’s a huge positive for us,” Commissioner Lance Landgraf said.
“For year’s the ratables, the value of homes, were in the negative,” Commissioner Tim Kriebel said. “At the same time, we had a double negative in fighting peoples’ tax appeals.”
The city had no tax appeals last year, Kriebel said.
Costello said the city’s surplus fund balance increased to $7.7 million from $5.9 million last year, and the city applied $3.4 million of it to steady the budget.
“When you took office your fund balance was around $2.5 million,” he said.
Former Mayor Tim Kriesher said that since ratables and fund balance were up, the city should “give some of it back to the taxpayers.”
“People are really struggling with the cost of food and gasoline, maybe you want to consider giving some of that back,” Kriesher said. “Use some of that surplus to have a tax rate decrease.”
Costello cautioned that although the city has settled employment contracts with four of its five bargaining units, the contract for firefighters has yet to be settled.
“We must be careful what we do going forward,” Costello said.
The city’s share of the budget, $24,016,127, which is up $569,715 or 2.43% over last year, will be raised through taxation. The 2022 tax rate will be $1.146 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, which is $.011 more than last year. The average taxpayer with a property assessed at $303,758 will pay $33.41 more for municipal services this year.
Chief Financial Officer Al Stanley said although the school tax rate decreased, the county tax rate for Ventnor City has yet to be finalized, and the city anticipates a 1 cent increase in the equalized county tax rate.
In other business, the Board of Commissioners approved a settlement with the owners of a property at 7 S. Fredericksburg Ave. According to the city’s attorneys, the city inspected the property on Dec. 11, 2020. Joseph, Anna and Tamara Proietto alleged that in May 2021 after the city inspection, the power went out in the middle of the night, which caused damage to numerous appliances in the house. The Proiettos alleged that the city was negligent in its inspection and presented the claim.
The city settled the claim for $5,000 without admitting liability and avoiding a potentially more costly lawsuit.
Also at the meeting, the board introduced two ordinances amending and supplementing prior ordinances. Ordinance 2022-008 will allow the city to demolish certain properties not in compliance with city codes, and Ordinance 2022-009 would increase construction code fees, which haven’t been raised for some time, officials said. The new fees are comparable to those charged in other communities.
The board also approved an ordinance raising salaries for members of the Beach Patrol. The changes reflect increases in the state’s minimum wage requirements. The starting salary for a lifeguard will be $13.39 in their first and second years of employment. The salary jumps to $13.90 in year three, and $15.15 in their fourth year on the job.
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