Posted Friday, January 24th, 2014

The 2014 capital budget proposed by the Morris County Freeholders continues to reduce the county’s debt, while at the same time meets the county’s ongoing capital needs.

Freeholder Deputy Director David Scapicchio highlighted the $23.9 million capital budget during the freeholders’ January 22 work session in Morristown.

Scapicchio, a member of the county’s Capital Budget-Facilities Review Committee, said the proposed capital budget continues the overall reduction of capital projects from previous spending levels, thus reducing the county’s debt.

“The key component to reducing taxes is debt reduction,” Scapicchio said. “At the end of 2013, the county’s debt was $246.1 million. By the end of 2014, our debt will drop by $7.3 million to $238.8 million.”

Scapicchio said the overall reduction of capital projects from previous spending levels will not impact much needed infrastructure improvements.

“In fact, the freeholders will be investing $775,900 more this year to repave county roads than we did in 2013,” said Scapicchio, who is freeholder liaison to Planning and Public Works. “Infrastructure is critically important to this county, its residents and to our economy, and we will continue to invest in it.”

The capital budget also focuses on public safety and law enforcement, with these areas seeing an increase of $1.3 million in their capital allocation for this year, according to Freeholder Doug Cabana, a Capital Budget-Facilities Review Committee member.

“We are funding upgrades to our fire safety and security systems in several county buildings, including the Morris County Courthouse, and purchasing driver and firearms safety simulators to enhance training for law enforcement personnel around the county,” said Cabana, freeholder liaison to Law and Public Safety. “This capital increase maintains the freeholders’ longstanding commitment to public safety.”

The county’s Department of Human Services had its capital budget cut by $210,000 from last year, primarily because several capital projects were completed, said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, also a Capital Budget-Facilities Review Committee member.

However, DeFillippo said funding levels have been maintained for projects at Morris View Healthcare Center and for those served by the county’s Division on Aging, Disabilities and Veterans. For example, new vehicles will be purchased for the Morris Area Paratransit System, which provides rides for senior citizens and people with disabilities, and for the county’s Nutrition Project, which provides hot nutritious meals to the county’s senior citizens.

At Morris View, a security system is being funded to help maintain the safety of residents who tend to wander.

“Morris View residents afflicted with Dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms that may lead to wandering would wear a watch-like transmitter device that would alert staff if the individual tries to leave facility,” DeFillippo said. “It allows the resident to move freely about Morris View, while affording them protection and giving their families and Morris View staff peace of mind.”

The current system does not have the capability of providing Morris View with upgraded computer services to monitor those at-risk residents through remote access.

Freeholder Scapicchio said other capital budget highlights include a 60 percent reduction in the Information Technology budget because of departmental reorganization; an increase in the county’s School of Technology budget to meet needed safety and infrastructure requirements; and continued assistance to the County College of Morris to help CCM leverage state matching funds for its capital needs.

The capital budget is part of the overall county budget, which is in the process of being developed.