Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The Morris County Freeholders have introduced a $308 million county operating budget that cuts $2 million from the total county tax levy.

“This marks the second year in a row that we’ve been able to cut the net tax levy by $2 million,” said Freeholder Director Gene Feyl. “We’ve done it in spite of increased costs, reduced ratables and a heavy demand on our human services.”

Feyl, a member of the freeholder budget sub-committee, said the reduction in the tax levy is inclusive of the 1-cent cut in the county’s Open Space Tax approved by the freeholders earlier this year.

The 2010 budget reflects a gross reduction of 53 county employees through attrition. There were five positions added to the Communication Center, and these will be fully funded by the municipalities being served, bringing the net reduction of county employees to 48.

Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom, who chairs the budget sub-committee, said one of the goals the freeholders had in developing the budget was to minimize the tax levy while maximizing county services to the greatest extent possible.

“We’ve reduced the cost of providing services to county residents rather than reducing the services themselves,” said Nordstrom. She said the priority areas in the budget included social services, health and public safety and economic development.

Nordstrom said the 2010 spending plan is 2.8 percent higher than last year’s budget, and said it includes funds to provide 700,000 meals under the county nutrition program, 80,000 rides to senior citizens and the disabled under the county’s MAPS program and to meet the increased requests from those in need of general assistance programs.

The freeholders said shared services agreements with several counties for use of Morris County’s Juvenile Detention Center and the Morris County Youth Shelter will result in approximately $1.13 million in revenue to Morris. The freeholders also said operational efficiencies and revenue enhancements at Morris View Healthcare Center produced a net savings of $2.5 million last year, with additional reductions being pursued in 2010.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 14 at 7:30 p.m.