Last night, the Chester Township Council passed the 2019 municipal budget, which includes no increase in the municipal tax levy. As liaison to our finance department, I couldn't be more proud of the work that went into this budget - from our mayor, the Council, our Chief Financial Officer, our Administrator, and each department head. The process of creating the budget and the result itself were sound, responsible, and respectful of the taxpayer.
The Top-Line Numbers
The Chester Township budget for 2019 is $14,770,399.81, of which $8,669,600.78 is raised through property taxes for municipal purposes. The rest is accounted for in grants, state aid, and revenues such as building and construction permits and our shared service agreements (more below).
Separate and apart from the Chester Township budget are the budgets from the Chester School District (42% of your tax bill), the West Morris High School District (24% of your tax bill), and Morris County (12% of your tax bill). The Chester Township budget is 20% of the total tax bill.
What went up, what went down
The 2019 municipal budget puts $550,000 into the capital reserve fund to reduce the need for future borrowing and get us on a path toward pay-as-you-go. This represents a $50,000 increase on last year's contribution to the capital reserve fund, which was itself a $100,000 increase on the previous year's contribution.
The budget also puts $1,300,000 toward paying down debt. As above, this represents a $50,000 increase on what we paid down the previous year and is part of Mayor Marcia Asdal's intentional and aggressive strategy to build cash and reduce debt at the same time.
Our pension costs continue to go up, with our exact obligation dictated by the State of New Jersey. Our contribution to the Public Employees Retirement Program (PERS) is $344,393 and our contribution to the Police & Firefighter's Retirement Program (PFRS) is $405,955. Additionally, our contribution to the Defined Contribution Retirement Program (DCRP) is estimated to be $5,000.
We anticipate a savings of roughly $300,000 in retiree health costs this year, which went a long way toward keeping the tax levy flat. This came as a result of the State of New Jersey moving municipal retirees to Medicare Advantage. Whereas retiree health costs for Chester Township were previously the bulk of our monthly health payments, they are now closer to one third of our monthly health payments.
Chester Township's Interlocal Agreements & Shared Court
Chester Township's interlocal agreements (also known as shared services) are saving taxpayer dollars, driving greater government efficiency, and serving as a model for other municipalities around the state. Every comprehensive analysis of shared and interlocal services in New Jersey includes reference to the successful Chester police merger, through which Chester Borough pays Chester Township $1,104,404 for police services and saves the Township roughly $141,355. Mendham Township pays Chester Township $106,482 for municipal court services and saves the Township roughly $30,000. And Chester Township pays Washington Township $70,305 for health department services, rather than hiring our own full-time employees. Stay tuned this fall for additional updates on our effort to share more services.
Participating in the budget process is invigorating - really! It motivates me to continue looking for ways to save taxpayer dollars. Here are a few recent decisions that will have a positive impact on the bottom line:
Everything about public service is an education - it just requires the discipline to learn as much around town as you do in Town Hall. I'm doing my best to continue connecting with residents and always invite you to contact me at any time. I'm looking forward to what this summer brings and will be sure to keep you in the loop.