Towns experiencing budget distress as a direct result of Superstorm Sandy are getting a lifeline from the federal government.

Governor Chris Christie today toured Toms River to see how $28 million in Essential Services Grants are helping the municipality recover from the storm and avoid layoffs. (Townsquare Media)

Governor Chris Christie on Wednesday toured Toms River, one of the several Essential Services Grants recipients statewide. The grants, part of the New Jersey Disaster Recovery Action Plan, allow towns to continue offering critical services during the rebuilding process.

The storm destroyed or significantly damaged more than 350,000 New Jersey homes, causing a massive hit to many towns’ ratable bases. In turn, officials bring in much less property tax revenue, putting a strain on the services they can offer.

To date, nearly $45 million of $60 million total has been distributed to 11 local government entities.

Approximately 18 percent of Toms River’s ratable base was lost. The $28 million in grants helped the town avoid the firing of up to 40 police officers, as well as the entire public works force assigned to residential trash and recycling pickup.

A big chunk of the money is devoted solely to the township’s Board of Education, so the school district can provide necessary services, while still limiting the property tax increase to 2 percent on average for taxpayers.

“Our Essential Services Grant program will help prevent the shift in property tax burden to property owners whose properties were not affected by Sandy,” Governor Christie said. “Had this shift occurred, it would have resulted in a property tax increase of between 30 and 40 percent.”

Governor's Office