The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders introduced a $480.9 million dollar budget last week. The budget holds the amount to be raised by taxation flat for the fourth year in a row.
The budget plan reflects a continuing effort by the freeholder board to reduce County spending while dealing with increased costs and reduced revenue.
“It is a challenge every year to try to cut spending without reducing the level of services our taxpayers have come to expect,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry. “This process is not something that is done in haste. This budget reflects the months of work that has gotten us to a flat tax rate for the fourth year in a row.”
As introduced, the budget is down by $100,000 from the last year, bringing the overall County spending down below the 2008 level. The amount to be raised by taxation is $302,475,000, the same as it was in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
“This year, an internal budget subcommittee met with each department to look for duplicative services and identify areas for consolidation and savings,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Gary J. Rich, Sr., liaison to the Finance Department. “This process has yielded savings in the areas of information technology, finance, human resources, building maintenance and legal services.”
The County budget is tentatively scheduled for adoption at 7 p.m. on April 10, following the official public hearing. The Freeholders will have a PowerPoint presentation at their regular public meeting at 7 p.m. on March 27 at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters on Symmes Drive, Manalapan. The public is invited to attend and comment.
“We have introduced a budget that holds the line on taxes at a time when residents are grappling with rising household expenses such as gasoline and groceries,” Freeholder John P. Curley said. “We have been able to make strides through outsourcing in many areas that, over the past few years, have led to multi-million dollar savings.”
“As Monmouth County’s economy faces continuing challenges in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the County continues to help our municipalities and businesses save money through Shared Services and Economic Development initiatives,” said Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone. “Shared Services helps the County, too. We can purchase commodities, like salt, in bulk quantities and pass the savings on to participating municipalities.”
County Finance Director Craig R. Marshall noted that the County continues to hold a AAA bond rating from all three major bond-rating agencies, a fete only a few dozen counties nationwide have achieved. The financial strength of the county allows municipalities, school board and other government agencies to borrow money through the Monmouth County Improvement Authority at the lowest possible interest rate.
“The Improvement Authority and the County’s AAA bond rating continues to be one of the best perks offered to local governmental agencies,” Freeholder Serena DiMaso said. “It is another way the County is helping to keep taxes low throughout the County, providing substantial savings to participants.”
Monmouth County relies less on taxes than most other New Jersey counties. As a percentage of the overall budget, Monmouth County’s taxes comprise 62 percent of the total budget, historically behind Union, Hudson and Essex counties.
“The department heads deserve a lot of credit for their hard work in paring down the budget,” said Rich. “This is the fifth year in which we asked for concessions from the departments and, as a result, this is the fourth year in which the tax levy has remained the same.”