Posted Thursday, March 1st, 2018

TARGETS LONG-TERM FINANCIAL STABILITY THROUGH STRATEGIC PLANNING AND PARTNERSHIPS, PREPARING THE COUNTY FOR FUTURE CHALLENGES

Morris County homeowners will pay an average of just $1.67 more annually in county taxes this year to fund services and programs provided by Morris County government through the 2018 county budget introduced by a 6-0 vote of the Board of Freeholders last night in Morristown.

Morris County sealThe proposed $305.8 million budget includes a tax rate increase of 1.79 percent, which is roughly half of the previous year’s increase.

The 2018 operating budget incorporates the most significant operational change in the county’s history – the leasing of the Morris View Healthcare Center.

It prepares for the implementation of a self-insured county employee prescription drug plan – with expected long-term savings. The budget also positions the county to address emerging challenges and needs by partnering with municipalities, constitutional offices, and others entities on a variety of programs and projects.

“Through the 2018 budget, our county will continue to be the premier place in which to live, work, and raise a family in New Jersey,’’ said Freeholder Christine Myers, chair of the freeholders’ budget subcommittee. “But the budget process goes far beyond 2018 in offering financial integrity that positions the county for future challenges. It allows us to employ strategic planning and look ahead to critical initiatives, so we can ensure our long-term fiscal viability.’’

Freeholder Christine Myers

Morris County Freeholder Christine Myers

The fiscally prudent 2018 budget allows the county to remain financially and operationally efficient; maintains and expands public safety initiatives; sustains all human services programs, while enhancing our tools to battle the opioid epidemic and to address the needs of our military veterans.

It enhances support for countywide economic development and tourism initiatives, protects the county’s long-standing, top-ranked Triple A bond rating; and preserves a stable level of fund balance required for well-run, top-ranked county governments.

Also, the freeholders have maintained the county’s voter-approved preservation trust fund that finances vital open space, farmland and historic preservation projects, and provides funding for recreational trails and flood mitigation.

In an effort to ensure that the county’s infrastructure remains sound, $31.1 million in capital projects will be undertaken, including resurfacing 24 miles of county roads, construction and/or design of 11 bridges, rail improvements to the county’s railroads, and the preliminary design of a new county courthouse.

Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo

Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo

“We are stabilizing the county tax effort, employing prudent debt practices, and maintaining a sound countywide infrastructure through a prioritized spending plan that provides ongoing flexibility,’’ said Freeholder Budget Subcommittee Member Kathy DeFillippo, a member of the budget subcommittee. “Development of multi-year financial planning will allow future Freeholder Boards to consider the affordability of initiatives before they become part of a future year’s budget.’’

“We have carefully scrutinized all aspects of county operations to make sure we operate in a lean manner, by running a modern, efficient and cost effective operation,’’ said Freeholder and Budget Subcommittee Member Deborah Smith. “This budget offers financial stability in the annual use of reserves while supporting the continuation of the county’s Top-rated Triple A bond rating.’’

photo of Freeholder Deborah Smith

Freeholder Deborah Smith

While maintaining a tight rein on spending, the freeholders’ proposed 2018 budget continues to invest in key programs and initiatives that maintain the high quality of life in the county, and look to the future.

To view the proposed 2018 county budget, and previous county budgets, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/transparency/finance/

Some of the new and expanded programs, done through partnerships, include:

  • Creating a Ballistics Laboratory in the Sheriff’s Office, to support law enforcement;
  • Creating a Forensic Drug Laboratory in the Sheriff’s Office, to promptly and efficiently identify illegal drugs in our countywide community;
  • Expanding Morris County’s EMS Initiative, to offer additional backup or as-needed emergency response service to all 39 Morris County municipalities;
  • Initiating Hope One “Navigating the Journey,’’ which will add county and nonprofit human services offerings to the Sheriff’s existing Hope One mobile opioid initiative;
  • Expanding the county Office of Temporary Assistance’s Dover operation, to enhance services to residents in that region of the county;
  • Relocating and expanding the Morris County Veterans’ Clinic, with an expanded Veterans’ Administration (VA) component;
  • Expanding professional economic development services to all municipalities through the Morris County Economic Development Corporation;

The 2018 capital budget strategically authorizes $31.1 million to responsibly deal with critical infrastructure needs.

$20.1 million is dedicated for public works initiatives and includes:

  • Resurfacing of 24.1 miles of county roads;
  • Construction of four bridges;
  • Design of seven bridges;
  • County railroad improvements;
  • A new heating system for the county building used by non-profit Homeless Solutions;
  • Environmental remediation projects;
  • Design of a new county courthouse;

Also earmarked for funding to maintain a sound county-wide infrastructure:

  • $2.4 million: Information Technology equipment and upgrades;
  • $1.8 million: Park Commission improvements;
  • $1.7 million: County College of Morris campus upgrades;
  • $1.6 million: 9-1-1 Communications center upgrades;
  • $1.2 million: Sheriff’s Office public safety upgrades;
  • $0.6 million: Morris County School of Technology upgrades.

The freeholders will consider adoption of their budget at their Wednesday, March 28 evening meeting in Morristown.

To view a summary of budget highlights, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/2018-Budget-Presentation.pdf

To view previous county budgets, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/transparency/finance/

(The average price of a home in Morris County is $419,042)