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South Amboy Announces $168 Tax Increase per Household

“We have a beautiful downtown and train station, but I don’t think we are providing the economic pace for businesses to come here. . .”

By Joseph L. Kuchie

SOUTH AMBOY — The South Amboy council held their annual public hearing for the 2012 budget last Wednesday, announcing an increase of $168 per household in taxes for the fiscal year.

City auditor Gary Higgins broke down the changes in this year’s budget, explaining that the large amount of tax appeals combined with the lack of revenue coming into the city was the reason for the increase. However, Higgins did believe that the increase could have been worse.

“The two percent levy cap that the state permits could have added $560,000, but the council did not do that,” Higgins said. “We are actually $360,000 beneath what the two percent levy cap would permit. Under state law, this budget could have gone up ten percent from last year, but it didn’t.”

Higgins explained that South Amboy lost $22 million because of tax appeals over the past year, which led to a $61 increase per household. The city also had a decrease of $194,000 in revenues, equaling a $61 increase per household, and increase in appropriations of $157,000, equaling a $46 increase per household.

George Flugrad of Augusta Street was disappointed with the effort being made by the council, criticizing the lack of businesses bringing revenue into the area and comparing South Amboy to more successful cities like Flemington. He believed that the city was going in the wrong direction with business and changes had to be made.

“Where is the incentive for me to open a business in South Amboy? In Flemington they open up a new business everyday on Main Street, and it’s only getting better,” Flugrad said. “We have a beautiful downtown and train station, but I don’t think we are providing the economic pace for businesses to come here. We are living in the Corzine days, and we have to move forward.”

Resident Vince Mackiel was also disappointed with the tax increases and wondered why certain departments were getting more money then others. Mackiel believed that the police and fire department were getting too much money, while other departments struggled to get by with what they had.

“How are we going to continue to keep the budget for police at three million dollars?

They are picking up small bicycles and new vehicles that could be cut for savings,” Mackiel said. “While that budget is three millions, streets and buildings is at $400,000. We can’t even reach an agreement on cutting the grass in town.”

Mackiel was referring to the Lawn Maintenance Program that rejected bids for a second time earlier this month due to disqualifications. However, the council did announce after the budget hearing that The Lawn Barber has been selected as the Lawn Maintenance company with the lowest bid of $21,000.

Mayor Henry understood the frustration among the residents of South Amboy during the meeting, and acknowledged that nobody should be happy about the tax increase. He reminded the audience that the council was doing all they can to lower taxes and that they were exploring all options.

“We have mandates from the state and contract obligations that take up the bulk of the tax increase,” Henry said. “We lost roughly $22 million in tax appeals that hurt our city revenue, but we will continue to look for revenues in the future and reach a solution.”

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