Freeholders Reduce County budget $18.2 million

The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders will have two budget presentations of the $469.85 million dollar budget they introduced earlier this month.

The budget presentations will be at the Board’s next two meetings: 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch in Shrewsbury and at 7 p.m. on March 24 at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters on Symmes Drive in Manalapan.

“This budget reduces the tax impact on residents and businesses and returns the amount to be raised by taxation to the 2010 level,” said Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone. “Last month, I called for a roll back of last year’s 1.4 percent tax increase and we have achieved that.”

As introduced, the County’s spending plan is down $18.2 million and will reduce County taxes by 1.474 percent. The amount to be raised by taxation is $302,475,000, the same as it was in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“Cost cutting and belt tightening over the past six years and the sale of the two County care centers have made it possible for this Freeholder Board to present a budget that resets our spending to below the 2007 amount,” Freeholder Deputy Director Serena DiMaso said.

At the end of 2015, Monmouth County completed the sale of its two care centers which eliminated the yearly operating losses that the facilities have incurred for several years. The public auction of the two facilities generated $32.4 million in revenue; approximately $18 million more than was projected.

“We have introduced a budget that rolls back taxes as many residents continue to struggle to meet their daily household expenses,” Freeholder John P. Curley said. “The long-overdue sale of the care centers has permanently eliminated the cost burden from our taxpayers and provided committed, long term management for the residents of the two facilities.”

The budget plan continues the efforts of the Freeholder Board to reduce spending while dealing with mandated costs that continue to rise.

“It has been a challenge to reduce spending without reducing the level of services our taxpayers have come to expect,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry. “This is an ongoing process and a task on which the freeholders continue to focus. This budget reflects continued commitment to providing desired services, such as an unparalleled Park System, a Library that has evolved as a community center and Public Safety that has never been compromised.  We have accomplished this while holding steady with the amount collected through taxes and retaining our ‘AAA’ bond rating.”

“Efforts to eliminate duplicative services and identify areas for consolidation and savings have paid off,” said Freeholder Gary J. Rich, Sr., liaison to the Finance Department. “An extensive internal review process has yielded savings in the areas of information technology, finance, human resources, building maintenance and legal services.”

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 feat only a 32 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,” Deputy Director DiMaso said. “It is another way the County is helping to keep taxes low throughout the County, providing substantial savings to participants.”

“County residents should also know that the County’s Shared Services program helps both the County and the towns reduce spending,” Director Arnone said. “We can purchase commodities, like salt, in bulk quantities and pass the savings on to participating municipalities.”

The County budget is tentatively scheduled for adoption following the official public hearing on March 24 at the Headquarters Library in Manalapan.