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Woodmont Residents Vote to Slash Budget by 9.1 Percent

Citizens of the borough met with their warden and burgesses Thursday to vote on funds for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Residents of the borough of Woodmont voted Thursday to slash their budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 from $126,200 to approximately $114,700, eliminating funds for traffic and parking and reducing taxpayer costs for sand replenishment.

The vote to cut the proposed budget by about $11,500 – 9.1 percent – took place at the borough’s annual meeting in Borough Hall. The borough votes for the next fiscal year at the beginning of the current fiscal year according to its charter, Ed Bonessi Jr., Woodmont’s warden, said.

While borough residents pay Milford taxes, the borough must set a mill rate for additional taxes the residents need to pay for expenditures that go “over and beyond what you’d get as a Milford resident,” burgess Christopher Schmeisser said.

For example, Woodmont pays for its use of Milford police, its own police car and library, the salaries of its officials, beach maintenance and sand replenishment, or flood and erosion control.

The funds for standard public services and projects, like snow removal, storm drain projects, landscaping and streetlight expenses, are paid from the fund known as the City/Grant Rebate, or the rebate the city gives back to Woodmont from the approximately $5.5 million borough residents pay Milford in taxes, according to Bonessi. Last year, Woodmont received approximately $220,000 from the city.

Bonessi described the two sources of funds - the additional taxes and the city's rebate - as the "two buckets of money" that support the borough.

What was cut, what was saved

The main line items up for debate for the next fiscal year were the $40,000 the burgesses suggested for police patrol, the $22,000 proposed for flood and erosion control, the $2,000 allotted for security and $500 for traffic and parking.

The $500 for traffic and parking – projects like the upkeep of crosswalks and stop signs – was eliminated quickly by the roughly 35 residents at the meeting. Cutting the $2,000 for Woodmont Day security was strongly opposed by some residents, including State Rep. Richard Roy, who argued that cutting the funds for security would look bad for the borough.

“Woodmont Day brings a lot of publicity to the borough,” he said. “If we move to remove the funds for security, it will get a lot of negative publicity.”

The motion was narrowly denied by three votes, so the funds remained in the budget.

Funds for police were also saved, though not without some debate. Residents were concerned with the difference in the funds allocated for police patrol in the fiscal year 2010-2011 - $44,000 – and the actual expense, $15,386.24, due to lack of Milford cops signing up to take Woodmont patrol shifts.

Resident Michael Graetz made the case to keep the funds for police, stating his concern for an increase in vandalism in the park and many incidents going unreported. Bonessi added that the hourly rate to hire police for shifts had been raised, so residents must consider that in their vote.

The majority – 22 nayes to 12 ayes – ruled in defeating the motion to cut the funds from $40,000 to $35,000.

The $22,000 suggested for sand replenishment – or as Bonessi said it should be called, flood and erosion control – also faced the axe. The line item was added when the borough voted on the 2011-2012 budget last year, after the city declined to use its own funds to pay for the service in Woodmont since it was not performed at any of the city’s other beaches, Bonessi said.

Graetz proposed a solution to save the funds for the line item, but to cut what taxpayers would need to pay. The $11,000 surplus resulting from fiscal year 2010-2011 was moved to subsidize the $22,000 allocation.

The actual mill rate for the additional taxes borough residents will pay in 2012-2013 will not be set until the city’s Grand List for that year is released in October, Schmeisser said. As it stands, that additional mill rate is expected to be 0.75774 after the budget reductions, a .08 decrease from this year's mill rate, when the taxes had been raised for the first time in several years.

RONALD M GOLDWYN August 26, 2011 at 03:28 PM
I'm not a resident, but I can understand your arguments about cutting costs. You talk about security, Can you not organize a volunteer auxillary Police unit to ease the problem? Residents trained by the Mfd Police Dept. Call it a neighborhood watch. No guns, just 2way radios to be the eyes of the community.
Ed Bonessi August 29, 2011 at 11:07 AM
Now that the disaster we were overdue for has materialized what now? FEMA moneys will only pay for a portion of the hundreds of thousands of dollar in repairs and will take months and miles of red tape. Roads, sidewalks and seawalls need to be repair now and contractors paid. Now that the Milford Boards of Alderman, Finance and the Mayor thinks the Borough should not keep reserves enough to handle situations like this the Borough, I say to everyone where will the rest of the money come from?

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