Monday, March 26th, 2012

The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders will conduct a public hearing on the 2012 Morris County budget on Wednesday, March 28 during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting that begins at 7:30 p.m.

The 2012 county operating budget not only preserves essential public safety, health and human services but also delivers a mere 0.5 percent increase in the tax effort, inclusive of a ¼ cent reduction in the Open Space Tax.

“When we began the process, our goal was to develop a budget that held the line on spending and did not impact critical services,” said Freeholder Ann Grossi, chairperson of the freeholder budget sub-committee. “This is a true victory for Morris County.”

According to Freeholder Gene Feyl, also a budget sub-committee member, the cumulative tax effort, inclusive of both the operating budget and the Preservation Trust Fund budget, has decreased by over $400,000 since 2008.

“A budget is more than a spending plan,” Feyl said. “It is a planning document that brings to life our vision for the county for not just one year, but for several years to come. It is much more than dollars and cents.”

The proposed 2012 budget not only preserves all county services, but also prioritizes public safety, health and welfare programs, said Feyl.

Freeholder John Murphy, liaison to human services, said it is important that the county maintain critical services for those in need, particularly those hard hit by the economic downturn.

“We were not about to let services for those in need go unmet,” Murphy said.

In addition to prioritizing public safety, health and human services, the county has also continued to trim its own work force. Since 2006, the county has eliminated 400 positions, saving approximately $20 million in salaries and benefits, said the sub-committee members.

The 2012 budget eliminates 35 positions, excluding the addition of personnel for the county’s Emergency Communications Center. Those Communication Center positions are funded by the municipalities whose emergency services are being dispatched by the county.
According to freeholder budget sub-committee members, one of the major goals of the budget – placing the county is a fiscally sound position, not only for this year but also for the following year – was achieved.

“This budget is a sound business plan that establishes our policy for this year and for future years,” Freeholder Grossi said.

In spite of the continuing economic uncertainty, the Morris County Freeholder Board has been able to keep both operating expenses and salaries to increases of less than 1 percent, and pension and other statutory costs and insurance costs to minimal increases of 1.03 percent and 2.15 percent respectively over 2011, said Freeholder Director William Chegwidden.

“This is a very responsible budget,” Chegwidden said. “Despite the prolonged challenges brought on by the national economic downturn, our 2012 budget proposal continues to provide the same level of quality service to Morris County citizens.”

A brief explination of the budget process can be viewed online at https://morriscountynj.gov/freeholders/countybudget.asp.

The public hearing will be conducted in the Public Meeting Room on the 5th floor of the Administration and Records Building on Court Street in Morristown.

The proposed budget, which was introduced Feb 22, can be viewed online at www.scribd.com/doc/82486133/Morris-County-NJ-Introduced-Budget-2012.

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