Millville accustoms itself to budgetary planning

While Ocean View has been working on its fiscal year 2007 budget since the fall, neighboring Millville just started the unfamiliar process this week. In a Tuesday workshop, a committee made up of mostly council members discussed the budget, which was hardly an issue before the recent development boom in the town.

Development in the next year will provide the first steady source of revenue for the town and that revenue will likely overwhelmingly exceed the town’s expenses in 2007.

“I think we’re going to be $1.5 million in the good,” said Millville Mayor Gary Willey. “That’s a good way to be.”

Though the mayor could be right in his educated guess, there were no numbers to back him up on Tuesday. The town will bring in more than $82,000 from application fees alone from the 195-unit Phase I of Millville by the Sea. But that amount wasn’t reflected in the budget. Only $115,300 of revenues is currently expected in the budget. Also not appearing in the budget were the building permit fees for Millville by the Sea, Creekside or Dove Landing — all of which will all likely either add more units or start construction in the 2007 fiscal year.

After making more than $50,000 on building permits as of the end of December 2005 in a year that will likely be overshadowed by 2007, town officials only plugged in $75,000 in expected revenue from the permits.

But, recognizing that there needs to be work done before the town approves the budget for the fiscal year — which now starts on May 1 — town officials on Tuesday started plugging in more realistic numbers on the other side of the budget.

And most of those changes reflected the development in the town. Town officials added $10,000 in expenses in the professional line to help pay for the town’s land planner, Kyle Gulbronson from URS. Since more plans for development are likely to come to council this year, Millville’s council and mayor decided it was likely they would see more of Gulbronson in 2007. Last year, the town didn’t budget any money for the planner and, as of Dec. 31, it had ended up paying more than $16,000 towards a line-item that didn’t yet exist.

Joan Bennett, the newest town council member — yet to be sworn in, in fact — first raised the issue that Gulbronson and legal council would likely be needed more in 2007, even though they had probably their busiest year to date in Millville in the 2006 fiscal year.

The budgetary committee also doubled the expected expense for legal council from $5,000 to $10,000, for the same reason as it raised expenses in the professional line. There will, without a doubt, be more documents for review in 2007 than ever before.

Willey and the committee also ran into a problem with Millville law, pertaining to how much to charge for an application fee, related to the amount of units in a development.

Currently, Millville’s law reads that after 11 lots, developers must pay $450 each for the application fee. The problem is with the word “lots.” Although there are more than 100 units in Dove Landing — a proposed community on Route 17 — there is only one lot, because the condominiums are in one building, Willey said. So they could only charge an application fee for the one lot.

“That’s the loophole,” Willey said. “That’s what we have to get out.”

That issue seems to be just one of the problems that will have to be sorted out in coming weeks as Millville ventures down the unfamiliar path of budgetary planning, in the face of massive growth in the town.