Mayor Leonard Desiderio is expected to deliver the proposed 2017 municipal budget to City Council on Jan. 24.

By Donald Wittkowski

Sea Isle City’s finance director said Tuesday that the 2017 municipal budget will not have “any major upheavals” but may include a slight increase in local property taxes.

Chief Financial Officer Paula Doll, who also serves as tax collector, characterized the city’s finances as solid heading into the 2017 budget season.

“We’re doing OK. We’ll be OK. I think we’ll see a fund balance at the end of the year,” she said.

Doll stressed it will not be clear whether there will a tax increase in the new spending plan until she finishes crunching the numbers.

“I’m not anticipating any major upheavals. But there might be a little bit of an increase,” she said in an interview after Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Sea Isle’s 2016 municipal budget included tax increases for some property owners and decreases for others. The anomaly with some taxes going up and others going down was caused by a property revaluation that affected the 2016 tax rates, Doll said. Tax rates in the 2017 budget will not be skewed by the revaluation, she noted.

Mayor Leonard Desiderio is expected to deliver the proposed 2017 budget to City Council at its Jan. 24 meeting. Council President William Kehner said the governing body plans to formally introduce the spending plan in late February or early March.

Prior to a final vote on the budget, Council will hold workshops to review the plan and give the public an opportunity to scrutinize it as well, Kehner said.

In the meantime, Council adopted a $4.8 million temporary municipal budget Tuesday to finance the town’s expenses until the full spending plan is ready for approval.

In an interview after the Council meeting, Kehner said he hasn’t heard yet whether the mayor plans to submit a budget that will raise or reduce taxes. He doubted there would be a tax decrease because of lackluster revenue generated by the city’s interest income and construction fees.

“I would doubt it would go down because revenue hasn’t been great,” he said.

The city must take on the added expense in 2017 of new labor contracts that were negotiated last year for Sea Isle’s municipal workers, making it further unlikely that the budget will include a tax decrease, Kehner said.

State aid will play a big part in the city’s budget, Kehner emphasized. He also said he hopes the city will have some leftover funding from 2016 to help finance the 2017 budget.

“You always have a little cushion left, so we don’t need to have all of our eggs in one basket,” he said.

City Council has introduced an ordinance to raise the fees for construction permits as a way to boost revenue.
City Council has introduced an ordinance to raise the fees for construction permits as a way to boost revenue.

In December, Council took steps to strengthen the city’s finances in 2017 by introducing an ordinance that will increase the fees for construction permits and building inspections for the first time since 2004.

City Business Administrator George Savastano told Council in December that the higher fees will generate extra revenue to help cover the operating costs for Sea Isle’s construction office. Ideally, the construction office would pay for itself, but is “far below that,” he said.

A public hearing and final vote to approve the ordinance are scheduled for the Jan. 24 Council meeting at 10 a.m. in City Hall. Council has asked Savastano to put together a chart on the construction office’s expenses and revenue for the past few years as it considers the ordinance.