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STONE HARBOR - Stone Harbor Borough Council discussed a possible increase in the municipal tax rate for 2020. The increase would move the rate per $100 of assessed value from $0.25 to $0.267, resulting in a 6.8% increase in property tax for homeowners in Stone Harbor.

The proposed increase would net the borough an estimated $932,000 in new revenue. The new rate would raise the levy by $170 on a home assessed at $1 million.

The council discussion included an examination of the items that would benefit from the increase. These included several initiatives that deal with the oceanfront beaches or the back bay waterways. Almost 55% of the proposed increase in spending is targeted at beach replenishment, back bay dredge management, beach and bay access, and flood mitigation.

Municipal departments, in which holding employees has been an issue, saw salary and wage adjustments.

The actual increases in the proposed budget totaled $1.2 million. Borough actions resulting in about $300,000 in savings covered almost 25% of the proposed increase in spending.

A recent decision to move the borough to the county's Central Dispatch has paid dividends, with an estimated saving, in the 2020 budget, of $53,623.

“This is the best kind of savings,” said Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour. “It comes with much better service, as well.”

The borough was able to see savings in debt service, while it increased the amount dedicated to paying cash for capital projects that otherwise would have gone onto the capital debt.

After an experience where the borough struggled to gain federal support for beach replenishment, it created a revolving fund for expensive replenishment and bay dredging projects.

With rising sea levels and more frequent severe storms, beach maintenance in the three-year intervals for federal replenishment projects relies on funds regularly set aside for that purpose.

Davies-Dunhour said that the almost $500,000 allocated in the proposed budget for dredging and beach replenishment is essential funding. “The beach and the bay are our lifeblood,” she said.

The 2020 budget was not introduced, but the council discussion appeared to clear the way for the chief financial officer to construct a budget along the guidelines presented at the meeting, including the proposed increase.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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