Newark budget would hike taxes $85 this year on average

By Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on May 18, 2016

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka's proposed 2016 municipal budget will be presented to the City Council at City Hall on Wednesday night.

 

NEWARK — Mayor Ras Baraka will present his 2016 budget to the City Council Wednesday night, unveiling a proposed spending plan that would cost the average property taxpayer an additional $85 for the year, a city spokesman said.  

The proposed spending plan, which must be reviewed and adopted by the council with any cuts or other changes it decides to make, would increase the amount raised through local taxes by 2 percent, said Frank Baraff, the city's communications director. However, the municipal property tax rate would increase by roughly 3 percent, due to a decline in the overall value of the city's taxable property, known as the ratable base, Baraff said.

"The tax rate is projected to go from 1.730 in 2015 to 1.781 in 2016, for an increase of 2.95%," Baraff said in an email. "Had the mayor not inherited a $50 million deficit from previous administrations, no tax hike whatsoever would be necessary. The average home owner would see an increase of $85 for the year."

Baraka was elected in 2013, after former Mayor Cory Booker left office to join the U.S. Senate. 

"While $85 may be modest for some it may be $85 too much for others," Baraka said in a budget statement he planned to make to the council Wednesday night, a copy of which was made public before the meeting. "My administration understands this and will continue to explore new revenue opportunities while being fiscally prudent with expenditures.

Baraff cautioned that the projected increase only to the municipal portion of residents' overall property tax bills, and that school and county taxes could have a separate impact.

"We do not yet know the impact or the school budget nor the county budget," Baraff added.

Based on last year's average municipal tax bill of $5,696, this year's figure under the proposed budget would be $5,781, with the extra $85 added on.

Even if this year's tax increase remains unchanged by the council, it will be significantly lower than the 9-percent hike to fund the 2015 budget adopted in September, which put total spending at $766 million. (Like many municipalities, Newark routinely adopts its budget well after the start of the year, relying on temporary appropriations until a final budget can be struck incorporating state aid figures.)

Finalization of last year's school and county taxes actually meant good news for taxpayers, when their overall tax bill went up just 6.7 percent once school and county spending were accounted for.

Besides the mayor's budget presentation, the council will take up a host of issues, including a $25 million bond ordinance to help pay for an expansion of Riverfront Park, which will come at a total cost of $41 million. The council is scheduled for a second vote on the park bonds, which would be the subject of a May 24 public hearing if approved.

Wednesday night's meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., in the Council Chambers at City Hall on Broad Street. The meeting's full agenda is posted online.

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