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  • Writer's pictureKristin Guglietti

Hammonton to raise taxes

HAMMONTON—When the budget was introduced at the May 20 town council meeting, town auditor Leon Costello said there will be a 3.5 cent tax increase for taxpayers.

“It’s mostly due to the fact that you have less fund balance this year than you had last year, and as was presented a few minutes ago the cap ordinance allows us to spend the amount of money that we’re spending,” Costello said. “Most of the towns in New Jersey are really getting backed up against this appropriation cap. Inflation is exceeding what you’re allowed to do.”

According to the ordinance #12-2024 Establish a CAP Bank, the final appropriations will be “increased by 3.5 percent, amounting to $421,471.89, and that the CY 2024 municipal budget for the town of Hammonton be approved and adopted in accordance with this ordinance.”

There will be a public hearing on the budget on June 24 where some changes can be made.

Some of the reasons for the tax increase are because the health insurance and pensions of town employees increased and the town council wants to keep services, which benefit residents such as bulky trash removal.

“You can look back and say those years we didn’t raise taxes that we should have to ease the effects of increases this year. But we could not predict inflation and a pandemic then. We did not need an increase then, so we did not raise taxes. All of the sudden there is a need for more money in day-to-day operations. We understand it’s tough. I get it. I feel for everybody.

But it is necessary to make this increase to continue to provide important services to our citizens. We don’t want to do this, but we have to,” said Councilman Sam Rodio.

Business administrator Frank Zuber said health insurance for town employees increased to 7.7 percent from last year, trash collection went up 3.5 percent on solid waste, 3.5 percent on bulky, salaries increased, and business insurance went up 6.16 percent.

“To maintain services and to provide police protection and everything the residents of Hammonton have come accustomed to, we have no choice in these inflationary times but to raise taxes. We work very hard to keep it as low as possible. Zero is just not acceptable at this time,” DiDonato said.

Resolution #072-2024 Introduce the 2024 Municipal Budget states the following: “Summary of general Section of Budget: Current Fund: Municipal Purposes within ‘CAPS’ $12,544,656.71; Municipal Purposes excluded from ‘CAPS’ $3,665,625.48; Reserve for Uncollected Taxes $1,192,574.42; Total General Appropriations $17,402, 856.61; Less: Anticipated Revenues $6,402,375.87; Amount to be Raised by Taxation $11,000,480.74.”

Next, the council approved Resolution #073-2024 Temporary Capital Budget, which will provide funds for the purchase of a new tanker fire truck and auxiliary equipment.

The ordinance provides a total appropriation as follows: “General Capital Fund: Total:

$800,000; Debt Authorized: $760,000; CIF Down payment: $40,000.

Before the budget was introduced, Pocono Organics founder Ashley Walsh gave a presentation on Class 1 Cultivator and Class 2 Manufacturer cannabis licenses.

There are six cannabis licenses in New Jersey: Class 1 Cultivator, Class 2 Manufacturer, Class 3 Wholesaler, Class 4 Distributor, Class 5 Retailer and Class 6 Delivery Service.

Walsh explained how it would bring a lot of revenue and jobs to the town and went into detail about the process of cultivating and manufacturing in an indoor facility.

During the presentation, she answered questions from the council.

Mayor Stephen DiDonato said there will be a special meeting on June 10 at 7 p.m. at town hall open to the public where there will be a first reading of the proposed ordinance, which involves allowing Class 1 Cultivator and Class 2 Manufacturer cannabis licenses in the town of Hammonton.

Solicitor Michael Malinsky said the public hearing would be the second reading on the proposed ordinance.

Malinsky said ten days prior to the second reading, which is the public hearing, every resident or lot owner within the AP, AP CLI and HP zoning district and within 200 feet will be noticed by certified mail and regular mail.

Each of the neighboring municipal clerks will also be noticed as well as the Atlantic County Planning Board.

After the public hearing, the council could approve the ordinance during the regular July 22 meeting.

Later in the meeting, DiDonato gave an update on Hammonton Lake. The lake is supposed to be sprayed in the spring to get rid of the bladderwort, but the town needs approval from the Pinelands Commission before spraying the lake.

DiDonato added he never begged to spend money like he is begging now. The mayor is making calls three to four times a day to make progress to get the lake sprayed.

Councilman Rodio said the town is on their third company to get the lake sprayed.

Earlier in the meeting, there was a presentation where Mark Kramer, the President of Kramer Beverage, received a proclamation for 100 years in business.

During committee reports, Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel said he wanted to remind residents as the weather is getting warmer to be careful of pedestrians.

“Make sure if you’re at pedestrian crossings, you’re stopping for pedestrians when they’re at a crosswalk. This way we can decrease our chances of injuries to those in and around our community,” Friel said.

Friel and council discussed the Rt. 54 Project, which will add two bike lanes on Bellevue Avenue. Councilman Steven Furgione said adding the bike lanes on the outside of parking spots makes him “uneasy.” Friel said adding bike lanes should have a traffic calming effect and slow traffic in the area because there’s less of a perception of a wide lane of travel. The project might take a couple years to complete.

There will be a special meeting on June 10 at 7 p.m. at town hall to discuss the proposed ordinance involving allowing two cannabis licenses.

The next regular meeting will be on June 24 at 7 p.m. at town hall where there will be a public hearing for the budget.


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