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SEA ISLE CITY – Sea Isle City’s Council introduced a $25-million municipal budget Feb. 25 that holds local taxes steady, although this year’s amount is increased from last year’s spending plan of $ 24.6 million.

As Mayor Leonard Desiderio remarked in his Feb. 13 State of the City address, his administration working with the council is pleased with the municipality’s sound fiscal standing.

The budget includes a $6.4-million surplus, viewed as the largest in the city’s history, according to Desiderio.

Figures provided by the municipality show that for the owner of a home assessed at $674,000, the local tax is about $2,500.

Sea Isle City’s water and sewer rates will remain the same for the seventh straight year. The average homeowner pays about $1,200 annually for sewer and water services.

In answer to the Herald’s query as to how Sea Isle manages to maintain stable tax and utility rates, the chief financial officer, Paula Doll, answered, “We have consistent revenue sources and conservative budgeting practices. We continually analyze our operations, follow policies and procedures to ensure efficiency and economy, and invest in our infrastructure while working with City Council and the public to deliver the services needed to maintain a safe and clean community.”

Of special note in this year’s budget is more funding for the volunteer fire department, which will allow a crew to stay on duty throughout the night. Officials said they are discussing potential staffing of up to four firefighters to be posted overnight at the fire department in time for the busy summer season.

Sea Isle City has experienced a series of highly-publicized fires, with one fatality over the past three years.

Residents have clamored at Council meetings for better protection from this type of devastation. 

Four separate fires destroyed nine single-family homes or duplexes, with one of the fires claiming the life of an elderly resident in November 2018.

Although many residents called for the city to reconsider having volunteers rather than a paid fire department, city officials and other residents have commended the unpaid firefighters for their actions, service and response times.

Council president J.B. Feeley stated, “It’s a normal course of business to stay on top of what they (the volunteer fire department) need and what we’re interested in doing regarding improvements for fire department services.”

The budget includes overnight duty incentives for volunteer firefighters. To pay for the overnight crews, the municipal budget would increase the fire department’s funding from around $116,000 to approximately $269,000.

Public hearing and possible budget adoption will take place March 24 at the council meeting.

To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.