Thursday, April 10th, 2014
The Morris County Freeholders, for the second year in a row, have adopted a budget with a zero percent increase in county taxes and that maintains services that are critical to county residents.
County debt is reduced by $8.3 million in 2014 with an overall reduction in capital projects, but not at the expense of infrastructure improvements, said the freeholders.
An additional $775,900 for road improvements and paving projects is included in the capital portion of this year’s budget, a 55 percent increase over last year’s allocation. Of the total $14.2 million for road and bridge projects, $6.1 million will pay for road repaving and reconstruction projects, $2.2 million of which is direct county funding.
The freeholders added $75,000 to the 2014 capital budget specifically for pothole repair. The money is being used to purchase three Hot Boxes, adding to the three others now in use by the county. A Hot Box keeps the material used to fill a pothole heated at the right temperature to ensure a better, longer-lasting repair.
The 2014 county budget reflects a 0.5 percent total tax cut, assisted by a $1.2 million reduction in the county’s Preservation Trust Fund tax. In the last two years, the freeholders have reduced that tax $5.2 million, while preserving all aspects of the program.
The $317 million budget also continues to fund essential public safety services including the County Correctional Facility, the Office of Emergency Management, the Public Safety Training Academy, the Juvenile Detention Center, the Youth Shelter, the Office of Health Management, the Medical Examiner’s Office, the Office of Weights and Measures, the county’s 911 Emergency Communication Center, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office.
The budget for the Sheriff’s Office includes funds for several shared services programs with municipalities including a countywide Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team.
The SERT is being expanded to include municipal police officers who meet the demanding criteria. SERT is an elite unit that performs search and rescue missions, provide dignitary protection and responds to high-risk arrests and crime scenes, natural disasters and threats to the community.
The county budget also includes funds for security enhancements at the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown. Among other things, additional security cameras will be purchased and installed at various locations around the Courthouse complex.
Health and welfare programs are also important components of the county budget with funding provided for a wide variety of human and social service programs including Morris View Healthcare Center, mental health and substance abuse programs; emergency assistance; transportation; and aging, disabilities and veterans’ services.
More than $1 million in various expenses were cut, according to the freeholders, and staff reductions total 63 as a result of the reorganization within several county government departments.
The budget was approved after the freeholders conducted a public hearing during their April 9 public meeting in Morristown.