Posted Monday, March 28th, 2011

The Morris County Freeholders have approved a 2011 county operating budget that reduces the gross county tax levy for the third consecutive year.

The budget also comes in below the state mandated 2 percent cap, a goal the
freeholders accomplished without excluding items such as pension and health insurance costs and debt service payments, for which exclusions are permitted under the cap law.

Under the 2011 budget, the gross county tax levy is down $1.8 million from 2010, inclusive of a half-cent reduction in the Open Space Tax, with a spending increase of just 1.59 percent, approximately $5 million below what the cap allowed.

The freeholders said their budget committee again used a program based budgeting approach in developing this year’s spending plan, looking at areas that could be reduced or eliminated if they were too costly, obsolete or redundant.

The $313 million budget also reflects a salary freeze agreed to by 1,722 county employees in 18 of 21 bargaining units, the freeholders said.

The 2011 budget shows a 1.04 percent reduction in salaries and wages and a gross reduction of 64 county employees. Since 2005, the county workforce has been decreased by 384 positions, representing a 16.4 percent reduction in staff.

Budget priorities for the year include the continuation and expansion wherever possible of shared services agreements with towns and nearby counties, according to the freeholders.