New Jersey town rejects tax increase, police department must disband

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Michelle Charlesworth is live in Lake Como with the details.

A police department in a small New Jersey town must disband after voters rejected a budget that would have raised their property taxes by more than 22 percent.

Lake Como voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected the referendum that exceeded the state's 2 percent tax cap. It would have cost about $2.4 million to fund the 10-member police department, costing the typical taxpayer about $700 more in municipal taxes.

The town will enter into a contract with neighboring Belmar to provide police services for about $914,000. The contract is expected to save taxpayers nearly $1.5 million.

"I'm not surprised at the (results), given the state of the economy," Mayor Brian Wilton said. "People are just not inclined to accept any tax increases, even a small one, let alone a 22 percent increase."

Taxpayers are already on the hook for most of the town's revenue because it has minimal income from building permit fees, construction fees, mercantile licenses and tourism fees.

Wilton said the police department would routinely go over its budget, and the council had to take money from other places -- including the surplus -- to make up the difference.

"We're not talking about a lot of money," Wilton said. "Our business area is about a block long. You're not going to float the town on those kinds of funds."

Wilton said the department will be disbanded as soon as the contract is finalized, which could be within the next week.
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