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STONE HARBOR – Officials in Stone Harbor may find themselves seeking a waiver from the state’s Local Finance Board for a 2021 budget that would exceed the caps for local purpose taxes and appropriations 

According to a budget presentation by Stone Harbor Chief Financial Officer James Craft Feb. 11, the proposed $1,328,220 budget increase, driven in part by the conversion of the borough’s all-volunteer fire department into a hybrid with paid, career firefighters, would be 7% higher than the 2020 budget 

The borough’s local purpose tax rate would increase nearly four cents, from 26.7 cents in 2020 to 30.6 cents in 2021, an almost 15% increase.  

At Stone Harbor Borough Council’s March 2 meeting, Administrator Robert Smith said another factor driving the increase is new salary rates for Public Works Department employees 

The proposed budget must also address a 2020 emergency appropriation of $335,000 for lifeguard salaries.  

The added salaries and wages across the three units, along with the associated Social Security and pension costs, account for 93% of the budget’s year-to-year increase. 

A special meeting of the council is set for March 9 to introduce the 2021 budget. However, the proposed $20 million current fund budget cannot be introduced by Council until the issue of the state cap is resolved.  

Council approved a resolution that would allow borough officials to seek the waiver if required. Smith said the borough had not yet determined if an appeal to the finance board will be necessary, hoping that the creation of the new fire department would be sufficient reason to earn state approval without an appearance before the board. 

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