Budget, Bond Ordinance Approved In Stafford Despite Some Opposition

STAFFORD, NJ — After some contention from a councilman and residents, the Stafford Township Council approved the $56 million budget and a $14.7 million bond ordinance at the latest meeting.

Part of the budget controversy stems from the fact that while the tax rate is going down, the tax levy is increasing in order to build up the town’s surplus. The levy is also increasing simply because there are now more people living in Stafford to collect taxes from. Read more: Tax Rate Down, Tax Levy Up: Officials Explain Stafford Budget

Councilman Paul Krier, the only member to vote “no” on both the budget and bond ordinance, has repeatedly said since the budget’s introduction that surplus funds should have been used to further decrease property taxes.

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“I think you all owe the taxpayers some relief as you don’t work for yourself. You work for us, the people, the taxpayers,” said local business owner Jessica DiMaria.

Resident Barbara Crystal noted that impending property reassessments mean that taxes could be increasing.

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“Mr. Mayor and town council members, you can vote to make a difference in our lives during these challenging economic times,” Crystal said. “You can choose to be responsive to the needs of your constituents.”

Crystal was also outspoken against the $14,686,109 bond ordinance, which appropriated funds for various capital improvements. She said some of the projects could be “deferred or eliminated.”

One such project is about $4 million towards shoreline restoration in part of Beach Haven West. Crystal asked if there would be costs incurred by Beach Haven West residents. She also brought up construction of bathrooms at Lighthouse Park, saying it could be deferred until 2025.

“Please cease this general fund debt spending spree and begin to rebuild a legacy of good financial stewardship of Stafford Township,” Crystal said. “We will remember in November.”

She also read a letter from resident Lisa Bennett, who was unable to attend the meeting in person.

“I fully appreciate your desire for something lasting to our town while preserving your legacy,” Bennett wrote to Mayor Rob Henken. “Respectfully, I do not think that it is fair to ask taxpayers to shoulder the burden of that legacy.”

Both the budget and bond ordinance were approved with Krier’s vote being “absolutely not.”

You can see the full budget information here.

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