Posted Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Morris County’s 2013 capital budget calls for borrowing approximately $2.5 million less than the amount traditionally borrowed, but still meets the county’s ongoing capital needs.

“Debt and spending are the issues of our time,” said Freeholder Hank Lyon, chairman of the Freeholder Budget Sub-committee and a member of the county’s Capital Budget-Facilities Review Committee. “The freeholders have taken concrete steps this year to reduce both.”

The proposed $22.5 million capital budget was developed after careful scrutiny and with an eye on preventing unreasonable financial burdens from being placed on county taxpayers, Lyon said.

According to Lyon, the capital plan focuses on infrastructure, education, public safety and human services projects.

The capital plan is part of the overall county budget, which this year calls for a zero percent tax increase, said Freeholder David Scapicchio.

“Key components of the county’s 2013 budget are capital expenditures,” Scapicchio said, “and reducing those expenditures was important in freezing taxes and beginning to reduce our long-term debt.”

Scapicchio said the reductions to the capital budget will not impact much needed infrastructure improvements.

He noted, for example, the capital budget includes just over $19 million for road and bridge projects, with approximately $14.5 million being reimbursed from the state or federal governments.

Major infrastructure projects include bridge construction on Berkshire Valley Road over the Rockaway River in Jefferson; Newburgh Road over the Musconetcong River in Washington Township; and Union School House Road over the North Branch Raritan River in Mendham Township.

“In the long term, maintaining the county’s infrastructure now is less expensive than neglecting it,” Scapicchio said.

The capital budget also focuses on education, said Freeholder Director Thomas J. Mastrangelo, with funding to allow the County College of Morris to upgrade six of its mechanical and electrical engineering laboratories and expand its performing arts academic center.

“Because of voter approval in November of the statewide Building our Future Bond Act, that $10 million project will receive $7.5 million from the state, with the county only having to match $2.5 million,” Mastrangelo said.

The Morris County School of Technology’s portion of the capital budget is slightly more than $972,000 for various improvements to the Denville facility.

“These are wise investments in our children and their education,” Mastrangelo said.

The renovation of the Central Avenue Complex into a multi-use non-profit mall for human services providers and four multi-use turf fields on the former Greystone site now known as Central Park of Morris County are also among the major projects included in the 2013 capital plan.

As for public safety projects, the capital budget continues funding for the addition to the Public Safety Training Academy on West Hanover Avenue in Parsippany to include a new Emergency Communications Center that will have the capacity to cover any of the county’s 39 towns that wanted to consolidate its dispatch service with the county.

“Several years ago, the freeholders made a commitment to expand our communication system so it had the capacity to cover any town that wanted to consolidate its dispatch service with the county,” said Freeholder Doug Cabana. “It is important that we keep that commitment.”

Cabana said the county is now providing emergency dispatch services for 23 municipalities and interoperable communications for all 39 towns in the county. “The bottom line is, our 2013 budget as introduced authorizes debt that is approximately $7.7 million less than it was in 2012 and more than $19.4 million less than 2011,” Freeholder Scapicchio said. “It is a blueprint for sound debt management.”