Warren County municipalities had until April 28 to set their spending plans for 2023, including general fund budgets covering the costs of public services.
By and large, property taxes pay for most services, and budgets are kept fairly unremarkable, but one consistent trend we noticed, across municipalities, was the approval of relatively flat or low tax rates compared to previous years.
According to Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director at Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University, this trend was to be expected. Since towns are still trying to grapple with the long-term impacts of COVID shutdown and the cost increases created by ongoing inflation, local governments are doing what they can to make up for their losses without crippling their residents, he said.
“The predominant issue for towns this year will be balancing their needs against the demands of inflation and those things that inflation brings with it,” Pfeiffer said.
Higher health insurance premium costs for public employees, greater demands on capital improvement funding due to labor and product shortages, and increases in solid waste removal costs are among a number of the things tying up budgets this year…
“It’s different from town to town,” Pfeiffer said. “Ideally the town should keep a surplus that is a percentage of their revenues and consistent from year to year.”
Other signs of a healthy budget include conservative spending plans and reliable sources of revenue, he added— but ultimately, it’s up to the residents to decide.