At a busy Commissioners meeting that included the swearing-in of three full-time emergency services personnel and a proclamation honoring the most outstanding volunteer in the borough, the biggest news of the evening slipped out innocuously: taxes in the borough might be going up for 2013.
In announcing that the full budget presentation will be delayed for another month, Mayor James Maley mentioned casually that borough taxpayers "may see a slight increase in taxes" for the next calendar year.
Pressed for further details from the crowd, the mayor ballparked the figure at about $50 per household, blaming factors like the worldwide economic recession and a decrease in state aid.
"If it ends up the way it is right now, it’ll be $50," Maley said. "Wish we didn’t have to do it, but because revenues are down, that’s what’s causing the necessity of raising the money that way."
Maley added that the borough government is "trying to get to a point" where it can hire back some necessary personnel—something it did earlier in the evening with the formal swearing-in of firefighter/EMT Timothy Tredanari and police officers Kenneth Jacoby and Samuel Rocco.
Family members beamed and the crowd applauded as all three took their individual oaths of office before a room filled with their fellow officers and firefighters.
The discussion about finances continued, however, with Maley fielding questions about tax collection efforts in the borough. Since holding accelerated tax sales a few years ago, he said, the borough tax collection rate exceeds 99 percent.
Third-party investors buy up the outstanding debt and place liens on delinquent taxpayers' properties, but the borough gets the money up front in that process, he said.
Maley also cited Collingswood's pursuit of a number of shared-service agreements with its partner communities—Audubon, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, Haddon Township, Mt. Ephraim and Oaklyn—as another example of its pursuit of cost efficiencies.
"There’s a group of seven towns where we’ve been working in the last year and a half to look at everything we can do together," he said, "construction, police, fire, everything."
Maley also said that the borough debt service, which has been a topic of discussion in budget-and-election season, acounts for about 18 percent of its total budget.
"Our budget is made up of $9 million in taxes, and $5 to $6 million raised through other revenues: state aid, parking revenues, a lot of other aid," he said. "It’s not just taxes."
The borough enjoys "a lot of redevelopment projects that generate revenues," Maley said, "like the Zane School; like Bobby Chez before we sold it.
"The Peter Lumber project for the last several years has been generating thousands of dollars that is offsetting that debt service," he said. "That’s why if you look at your tax bill we’re in the same range with other towns."