Monroe Council Unanimously adopts $58.8M budget for 2018

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 |May 11, 2018 | MonroeNow

Monroe council members unanimously approved the $58.8 million 2018 municipal budget this week that includes $450,000 to cover the cost for temporary armed security at the district’s schools.

The budget would raise the tax bill $58 based a property assessed at $315,000. In total, the approved spending plan would collect $39.1 million in taxes, a 5.8 percent increase over 2017. The tax rate, the amount paid per $100 of assessed property value increased less than 1 percent, officials said, to 47 cents.

In February, concerns rapidly grew about campus safety after a gunman killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Fla. Residents made request to enhance security at the district schools through adding armed guards. In a temporary deal reached between the school district and the municipal government, the Police Department has been providing off-duty armed guards at the eight schools until the board can roll out its own armed security team.

During the public hearing, questions were raised about some of the revenue and expense lines, particularly dealing with the use of surplus and also the money set aside for covering unpaid taxes. The township will use $8.1 million is surplus funding and set aside $3.85M for the reserve for uncollected taxes despite having a nearly 98.92 collection rate — a $100,000 increase of 2017.

Officials said the surplus would be regenerated, as was the case with the 2017 budget that used 7.5 million and finished the year back up at more than $13 million.

“You structure your budget to regenerate the surplus that you’re going to use,” said George Lang, the township chief financial officer, in a previous story published April 21.

With regards to the increase in the reserve for uncollected taxes, Township Manager Alan Weinberg said at the May 7 meeting, “We try to raise it a little bit every year and again it’s part of being conservative with the estimation to revenues. The overall tax amount does go up a little bit, you try to keep pace with that. It’s just another way of being conservative … in case the collection [rate] did drop.”

The spending plan also funds hiring two additional police officers and replacing another cop. It will also provide funding to cover a 2.5 percent salary increase for municipal employees, excluding police officers because they are under a contract. The raise, officials said previously would help to cover cost imposed on employees to meet a mandate that they pay 35 percent of their individual health insurance.