Red Bank will not have a property tax increase in this fiscal year, but it comes at the expense of reduced city services and the elimination of the city's codes enforcement officer.
Red Bank Board of Commissioners approved a $4.8 million budget by a 3-1 vote with Commissioner Ruth Jeno casting the only opposition and Mayor Monty Millard absent.
"I don't agree with 90 percent of the budget," said Jeno. "We chose not to accept a grant for computers for patrol cars that would free up two hours each, that's 18 hours police could be on the street."
Jeno said she strongly feels that the city of Red Bank should keep its codes enforcement officer. She said codes enforcement is important to help spur economic development needed in Red Bank. She said she is sad that funding for the new city hall has been removed from the budget and the revenue set aside will now go into the general fund.
"It took blood, sweat and tears to get through this process," said Commissioner Greg Jones. "We started with a 36 cents property tax increase. We are now at a point of a zero tax increase."
He said the cuts were all "tough" and the hardest decision was cutting the codes officer position.
"We all agree that codes are important to the city of Red Bank," said Jones. "Let me assure you codes enforcement will continue. In the end I felt confident in our city manager and public works to handle codes in house."
Many Red Bank citizens took turns voicing opposition to the budget, mostly focusing on the improtance of the codes officer.
"In order to bring more money into Red Bank you need a codes enforcement officer," said Red Bank resident Melinda Roddy. "If people are not brought up to code, then we will not have economic development. Why don't you sell some of the city's motorcycles to keep the codes officer's salary? Red Bank has looked better and better in the three years we've had a codes officer. Maybe you guys could charge a $50 fee for property not being maintained."
Red Bank resident Pam Stone said the city needs codes enforcement to maintain property value.
"If homes were kept up people would flock to Red Bank," said Stone. "I have my home up for sale. My house is updated and so is my neighbor's house, but a few houses down the grass is above the knees. I strongly like Wayne Hamill, but he has a lot of work to do already. If someone does not have it as their job, then codes will not get done."
The city will also cut the leaf vacuuming service, but residents can still bag up their leaves and put bags by the road for pickup. Instead of purchasing five new police cars, commissioners agreed to three new cars and postponed the purchase of computers for patrol cars. Commissioners did approve the purchase a new fire engine for Red Bank Fire Department.
"Times across the country are tough," said Jones. "I hope we made the right decision for the city."
Commissioner Floy Pierce said she completely agrees with the cuts made to the fiscal year 2012 budget. She said she wishes that city employees could have received raises, but the city is in a crisis.
Commissioner John Roberts said he also agrees with the cuts to the budget.
"I looked at services being cut," said Roberts. "The brush and trash will still get picked up. The police will get cars and the fire department will get a truck. Codes will get done. I've been frustrated at things not getting done with codes. I'm tired of throwing money at something that does not work. I would like to see more money put in for street aid. I don't think the budget is perfect."