Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Freeholders Reorganize-Pledge No Increase in County Taxes
Freeholder Director Tom Mastrangelo

The Morris County Freeholders began 2014 with a pledge of working toward another year with no increase in county taxes.

The freeholders issued their promise during their Jan. 4 Stated Annual Meeting, at which Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo was sworn in for a second, three-year term on the board.

Freeholder Doug Cabana took the oath of office to begin his sixth term, while Kathryn A. DeFillippo was sworn in for her first term.

Mastrangelo was also selected by his colleagues as the board’s director for the second consecutive year.

“Being named director for a second year is a privilege I do not take lightly,” Mastrangelo said. “I sincerely appreciate the confidence my colleagues have in me.”

Mastrangelo, of Montville, said the freeholders kept the promises they made at the start of 2013, including protecting the county’s Aaa bond rating, reducing county government spending and holding the line on county taxes.

“The budget the freeholders adopted in 2013 contained a zero percent increase in county taxes, and that was the first time in 15 years that happened,” Mastrangelo said. “Further, we reduced the open space tax by $4 million. Combined, total property taxes decreased by almost 2 percent.”

Mastrangelo said this year, the freeholders plan to adopt a budget that is “prudent, sound and that provides a zero percent tax increase for the second year in a row.”

Freeholder David Scapicchio of Mount Olive, who was selected as the board’s deputy director for the second year, said the freeholders will again concentrate on debt reduction, as they did in 2013.

“Last year, we realized a debt reduction of approximately $6 million, “Scapicchio said. “We anticipate a similar reduction in our debt obligation in 2014 as we continue to protect the county’s Aaa bond rating.”

Scapicchio, freeholder liaison to the Department of Planning and Public Works, noted approximately 21 miles of county roadways were paved in 2013, and he said investing in the county’s infrastructure will continue.

DeFillippo, a former mayor and councilperson in Roxbury, said together, the 39 towns that make up Morris County make it a wonderful place in which to live and raise a family.

“I pledge to do all I can to maintain our quality of life and the excellent services this county has, while maintaining strict fiscal discipline,” DeFillippo said.

Freeholder Hank Lyon said, while the freeholders’ number one goal remains reducing county taxes for the second consecutive year, that does not mean county government will go away.

“Last year, with our first tax cut in effect, the Department of Human Services, to which I am liaison, provided more than 400,000 meals to senior citizens and more than $2 million in support to out nonprofit agencies,” Lyon said. “I have no doubt we can continue to provide high quality services at an affordable price if we identify our priorities and then focus on achieving those goals in the most cost effective manner.”

Freeholder John Krickus said he is pleased to see some municipalities have also set goals of no tax increases.

“In 2013, Roxbury and Parsippany delivered a zero percent local tax increase for their residents,” Krickus said, “and at town reorganization meetings this year, I have heard elected officials in Hanover and Mount Olive say they, too, will look to do the same.”

Freeholder Doug Cabana said the freeholders will, in 2014, also continue to explore areas where sharing services with municipalities and nearby counties might be possible.

“We now have shared service agreements with 24 towns to provide them with emergency communications and dispatch services,” Cabana said. “With the upgrade of our county radio system infrastructure last year, we are now able to service many more partners.”

Cabana also noted the county’s Office of Health Management currently provides health services to Morris Plains, Denville and Boonton Township, and will look into “mutually beneficial shared services opportunities with other towns” this year.

Looking ahead to 2014, Freeholder John Cesaro said the freeholders remain committed to transparency in government.

“Last year, we unveiled a newly designed website that makes it easier for citizens to understand the workings of county government,” Cesaro said. “Morris County government is fully transparent, and in the year ahead, we will continue to enhance our openness.”

In 2014, the freeholder public meetings will start at 7 p.m. A list of meeting dates can be found on the county government website, www.MorrisCountyNJ.gov.