Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

FIRST TAX HIKE SINCE 2012 WILL INCREASE TAX LEVY JUST 2.39 PERCENT WHILE MAINTAINING ALL ESSENTIAL SERVICES

The Morris County Freeholders last night unanimously introduced a $337 million budget, with taxpayers expected to see a total 2.39 percent county tax levy increase for 2016, which is the first increase since 2012, a period in which this freeholder board repeatedly held the line at zero on tax increases.

MC

Including the 2016 budget, county taxes have increased just 0.5 percent over the past four years, or a total of less than $20, of just $5 a year, on a property assessed at $373,000.

In approving the budget by a 7-0 vote, the freeholders also agreed to consider major, long-term county government initiatives to be discussed in the coming months that could reduce spending in future years.

The 2016 operating and capital budgets includes funding for all essential county programs, including education, parks, human services, law enforcement, corrections and public safety. It also contains funds for a continued aggressive effort to upgrade the county’s road infrastructure.

In addition, the freeholders have maintained the county’s voter-approved open space preservation trust fund, cutting it by just one-eighth of a cent to ease the tax burden on residents, while providing more than $8 million for open space, agricultural and historic preservation, and purchase of flood-threatened properties.

Kathy DeFillippo

Kathy DeFillippo

“This Freeholder Board has worked hard to develop a county budget that is financially and operationally lean and efficient, maintains all public safety initiatives, human services programs, and critical countywide infrastructure efforts, while ensuring continuation of the county’s Triple A bond rating, all while keeping close watch on taxpayers’ pocketbooks,’’ said Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo, who chairs the freeholders’ budget subcommittee.

The goal of the Freeholder Board was to craft a 2016 budget that:

  • Remains financially and operationally efficient;
  • Maintains all public safety initiatives;
  • Sustains all human services programs;
  • Ensures maintenance of all countywide infrastructure;
  • Protects the county’s long-standing Triple A bond rating;
  • Preserves the prudent and methodical use of the fund balance.

Dramatically rising health insurance costs – which had been held in check for several years but increased $6.35 million this year — is the major reason for the budget and tax levy increase. To ensure that the health insurance increase was the most moderate possible, the county changed health care carriers in 2016 to ensure the most cost efficient carrier was selected, while employees – whose numbers have declined substantially over the past decade — continued to pay more towards their insurance premiums.

Hank Lyon

“We have carefully scrutinized every facet of county operations to ensure that we operate in as lean a manner as possible, while offering services that maintain Morris County’s top quality of life, and that we do so by running a modern, efficient and cost effective operation,’’ said Freeholder Hank Lyon, also a budget subcommittee member. “At the same time, the board this year has committed to take a look at the big picture, to look at possible structural changes in county operations in 2017 and beyond that could lead to meaningful savings in the future.’’

While maintaining a tight rein on spending, the freeholders’ proposed 2016 budget continues to invest in key programs and initiatives that maintain the high quality of life in the county.

Ongoing Investments in Education/ Recreation, include:

  • $13.7 million investment in the Morris County Park Commission
  • $11.8 million investment in the County College of Morris
  • $6.2 million investment in the Morris County School of Technology

The 2016 Morris County budget also will fund a wide variety of vital Human Services that county residents expect, including:

  • More than 500,000 meals annually provided to Morris County’s senior citizens
  • Operation of the Morris View Healthcare Center, which remains home to 283 individuals
  • A wide variety of Human/Social Service programs, including Aging, Disabilities, and Veteran Services; Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse Services, Emergency Assistance Services, and Transportation Services
Christine Myers

Christine Myers

“We have understood our obligation, even during lean fiscal times, to help our residents in need to get through crisis situations, to help ensure they can get assistance to help them get back on their feet, and to safeguard their families and loved ones during their personal crises. The residents of our county would demand nothing less,’’ said Freeholder Christine Myers, also a budget subcommittee member.

Meanwhile, the Morris County 2016 capital budget strategically authorizes $25.9 million to responsibly deal with critical infrastructure needs, with a continued emphasis on:

  • $7.6 million for road improvements for the freeholders continued emphasis on upgrading the county’s road network;
  • $3.3 million for bridge reconstruction and replacement projects;
  • $3.5 million for intersection upgrades;
  • $3.7 million for educational facilities, including $3.1 million for building renovations and modernization at CCM and $600,000for HVAC upgrades at the School of Technology;
  • $1.7 million for Morris County’s parks, including road paving, equipment upgrades, and a marina renovation for the park system, which gets 3.5 million visitors annually;
  • $1 million for start-up of voter-approved and court-mandated Criminal Justice Reform.

The freeholders will consider adoption of their budget at their Wednesday, April 27 meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. at the Morris County Park Commission’s Silas Condict County Park in Kinnelon.

To view the county’s 2016 proposed budget, please visit:

https://morriscountynj.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016-County-Budget-as-Introduced.pdf

To view a summary of budget highlights, visit: http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/MorrisCountyNJ-2772972-2016-morris-county-budget-presentation/