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Sep 2015

A Message from Mayor Carmen Amato - September 2015


After years of consistently rising property taxes and runaway government spending  under my predecessor, I ran four years ago on a platform of keeping Berkeley Township affordable for our home and business owners – especially our young families and seniors on fixed incomes.

Despite struggling national and state economies putting a strain on state and local budgets, and the catastrophic impact of Superstorm Sandy on our community, my administration has endeavored each day to deliver efficient, effective government that lives within its means and strives every day to do more with less, just like our residents do in their own households.

I am proud to report that we are making solid progress and creating a model in Berkeley Township for communities across the state to follow.  Due to our efforts and fiscally conservative policies Berkeley Township now has the 2nd lowest average overall property taxes in Ocean County according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Local Government Division. 

In fact, the average property tax bill in Berkeley Township is less than half of the amount of the statewide average.  This hasn’t happened on accident and we didn’t get lucky; this is the direct result of our efforts to keep costs down in government so we can keep taxes down for our residents.  Moreover, the 2014 township budget came in at more than $2 million less than in 2013 while still providing vital funding for programs and services that improve the quality of life for our families, schoolchildren and seniors.

There’s even more good news this year, as we were proud to deliver a budget that had zero tax increase for 2015.  Moreover, the 2015 budget spends less than the budget we passed in 2013, despite rising fixed costs and a depressed ratable base in the wake of Sandy.  In total, we remained under Governor Christie’s 2% tax levy cap by $2.8 million and $2.2 million under the state spending cap.

It’s important to note, as well, that while we’ve tightened our belt at the township level, we have continued to move forward with the four-year phase-in of our automated recycling program to help the environment and save tax dollars, while adding more than twenty new police officers to our force in order to ensure that Berkeley Township’s neighborhoods and schools remain safe and secure in a world that, sadly, seems evermore dangerous.

The result of these budget success stories has been that Berkeley Township’s bond rating improved two notches up to an “A+” according to Standard & Poor’s (S&P) rating agency.  The elevated bond rating came after S&P recognized our efforts to remain financially responsive to our taxpayers despite the adverse economic pressures we are facing.  In their report, they cited our significantly improved budgetary flexibility and liquidity, and low overall net debt.  The bond rating increase reverses a trend that began under my predecessor that saw our bond rating take a hit in 2011.  Best of all, the improved bond rating has already begun to pay tangible dividends, allowing us to save taxpayers nearly $100,000 by refunding a bond issue.  
    In addition to the fiscal turnaround here in Berkeley Township, I am excited to have taken a major step forward in the redevelopment of Beachwood Plaza and the overall economic revitalization of the Route 9 Corridor.  After years of stops and starts, our township is on its way to becoming the economic engine of southern Ocean County.  
   The days of driving past an ugly chain link fence, caved in roof, broken glass and growing weeds are soon to be in the past, and an exciting move towards the future awaits for our township.  The successful economic revitalization of Route 9 will ultimately help shift some of our property tax burden away from local homeowners, which will aid in keeping our property tax burden in Berkeley Township both stable and among the regions’ lowest.
   I want to thank the Township Council, the public employees and all of the residents of our town for their efforts to move our town forward.  Together, we are achieving great things and ensuring that our community lives up to its potential as one of the best places in New Jersey to live, work, raise a family, start a business or retire.