There’s been much buzz about the accuracy of numbers presented by Montclair Town Manager Marc Dashield since the municipal budget was introduced at last week’s council meeting.
The Concerned Citizens of Montclair said that Dashield’s numbers “didn’t add up” in a Baristanet post last Friday. In response, Mayor Fried told Baristanet that CCM “doesn’t understand the numbers.” Councilor Cary Africk had lots to say in the thread of CCM’s post, offering more numbers and additional information. The various opinions have left some residents more confused than ever. Heads are spinning with projections, and CCM says they’re still waiting for a transparent budget.
Yesterday afternoon, the town released this additional information:
Montclair Township’s projected total tax increase was originally calculated without including a projected increase in the County tax levy. Although the County tax levy has not been finalized, the Township should have included a projected increase in its calculations. This unintended oversight understated the projected tax increase by 0.42 %.
The updated calculation for the overall tax rate is indicated below:
Municipal Tax Levy 51,030,656.54
School Debt Service 4,712,469.00
School Tax Levy 97,509,698.00
County Tax Levy 30,799,429.41
(Projected 2.5% increase – Estimated levy includes added assessments -30,048,223.81 X .025 = 30,799,429.41)
Total Levy 184,052,252.95
Net Assessed Value 7,181,141,428.00
Projected Tax Rate
(Total Levy/Net Value X 100) 2.563
2010 Tax Rate 2.519
Percent Increase 1.76%
There has been some confusion over how to determine the municipal tax levy increase. Below are the numbers and the formula used to calculate the 2011 increase over 2010.
2010 Levy 48,924,389.87
2011 Levy 51,030,656.54
Percent increase: (2011 levy / 2010 levy) 4.3%
It is important to note that the tax levy numbers for all of the above entities have not been finalized and may change. The numbers shown reflect the best estimates available to the Township at this time.
We asked for comments from Jerry Fried, CCM’s spokespeople (Heather McCutcheon and Hollie Reddington) and Cary Africk.
Here’s what they had to say, in the order of their email responses:
“I appreciate Marc’s correction of his preliminary estimate from 1.3% to 1.76%. We still don’t know what the County number will be… I’d be surprised if they are as high as 2.5%, given County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s embrace of Christie’s 2% cap.
I’m fairly certain that we will be making additional cuts or revenue enhancements to lower the rate further. My guess is that the total 2011 increase in property taxes will probably be closer to 1%.”
Mayor Jerry Fried
The omission of the county increase indicates a lack of attention to details on the part of the town. Still, the town should be showing the WHOLE picture in terms of what the rate increases are for 2011. While the town levy will increase 4.3% in dollars (from $48.9mm to $51.0mm), the town has conveniently neglected to show the increase in the municipal tax rate which is 6.4% (all CCM submitted figures are in chart below).
Again, in the name of transparency, it would have been nice to see the chart below on an overhead projector or at least on a piece of paper for the public to analyze at the town hall meeting last Tuesday night.
Concerned Citizens of Montclair
A resident’s taxes are calculated by multiplying the tax rate times the assessed value of their property.
The tax rate is calculated by dividing the total levy by the Net Assessed Value. The Total Levy, is the money that the township has to raise from the taxpayers, to run the town, and school, and to pay the school debt service. The total levy also includes the amount we pay to the County.
The Net Assessed Value is, basically, how much everything in the town is worth — commercial, residential. There are certain exclusions.
The increase is calculated by taking the 2011 Tax Rate and calculating the difference between 2011 and 2010.
When the number was initially presented to the public it was assumed that the County Tax Levy would be the same in 2011 and 2010. The County Tax Levy is not yet a firm number, but the increase clearly wasn’t going to be the zero in the initial calculation. Now, our best estimate from the County is that their increase will be 2.5%.
Using that, the total tax increase, 2011 from 2010, is 1.7%, not 1.3%.
It’s interesting that both OBAC, and myself, were “accused” of not understanding the numbers when “everyone else did.” We wanted to examine the numbers, which we did. And found the error.
Understanding ALL the numbers is important. Not “relying on the experts” is important. There is no harm in giving residents the information they (and I) need to run the calculations.
With the numbers changing, it’s easy to see how some errors can slip in. That’s why its important to be careful with the process.
My focus is on finance. I think its basic. Councilor Cary Africk
Ok, folks… Everybody got that?