WANTAGE Wantage Township has adopted a $5.54 million budget for 2009 that represents a $48 tax increase for the average property owner with a $320,000 assessment. Although the township lost about $70,000 in state aid this year, it stands to receive an increase of $108,443 in grants compared to 2008 a rise from $247,733 in grant money received last year to $356,176 this year, according to Township Administrator Jim Doherty. The budget, which was unanimously approved by the three-person Wantage Township Committee at its May 28 meeting, covers the day-to-day costs of running the township, said Doherty. Roughly one-third of taxpayer dollars go toward paying for the town’s public works: or $210 out of the estimated $656 to be paid by the average property owner this year, said Doherty. Utilities, interlocal construction, public safety, tax assessment and collection fees, administrative and legal costs comprise another $210 worth out of the average taxpayer’s pocket. Engineering, capital improvements, animal control and other costs make up the remainder of the town’s operating expenses, said Doherty. The average taxpayer will pay $15 for the stipends, healthcare insurance and expenses for the town’s three-person governing body, said Doherty. Among 52 New Jersey municipalities with 10,000 to 13,000 residents, Wantage Township has the seventh-lowest debt burden at $5.54 million, according to Doherty. Some controversy During his presentation on the town’s budget, Doherty said the township’s 1.5 cent increase on the local tax rate falls within the state’s 4 percent tax cap requirement. But during the open public session of the meeting, Wantage Township resident William Gettler questioned Doherty’s calculations, claiming that the tax increase actually reflects a 7.89 percent tax hike. Doherty responded that he stands by the township’s figures. Meanwhile, $16 will be collected from the average Wantage Township property owner this year to be used for the town’s open space tax, said Doherty.