Anyone who lives in Monmouth County is likely to be very aware of many of the good things county government provides like roads, parks and libraries. However, one of the most important and valuable things the County provides is known to relatively few. That's the role the County plays in enhancing the financial resources of others. This is done in a number of ways.

Sometimes it's by providing a share of the price for preserving farmland to bring larger amounts of state dollars to the deal. At other times it is providing a match for Green Acres dollars to acquire more open space. And sometimes it's using Monmouth County’s AAA bond rating to help others borrow money through the Monmouth County Improvement Authority (MCIA) at rates that can save significantly in interest payments.

Perhaps the greatest example of this took place recently when the MCIA assisted FMERA (Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority) in taking a truly transformational step. I've had the privilege of representing the Board of Chosen Freeholders from the beginning of the very long transition of Fort Monmouth from active military base to its new role as an economic engine for Monmouth County. This has always been a constructive, yet sometimes challenging, partnership with multiple towns, the county, the state and the U. S. Army with each partner pursuing their own legitimate ends.

From the beginning, the intent has always been for the Army to gradually exit the process as its responsibilities were fulfilled. As FMERA moved closer to that point and properties were beginning to be sold, the economic argument for facilitating that exit grew. Under the FMERA agreement, the Army received 60 percent of the revenues from property sales. With the Fort Monmouth properties appraised collectively at more than $90 million a great deal of money was at stake.

That's why, as FMERA moved to Phase II of the redevelopment process, the MCIA agreed to act as guarantor for $35 million in bonds and notes, the money from which will be used to buy out the interest of the Army. This will leave Monmouth County in the lead role. The magnitude of this is easy enough to understand when you calculate that the Army’s 60% share of the more than $90 million in asset would be in excess of $55 million. Buying out the Army’s interest for $35 million will leave at least $20 million dollars in Monmouth County. This is $20 million that can be used to help revitalize our local economy; it’s money that was not available under the previous agreement. The other good news is that all of this is being accomplished at no net cost to the taxpayers.

When we think of the role of government, we tend to think in concrete terms like land, buildings and people. It's easy to overlook the added value that effective financial management can bring either in dollars saved, or dollars that are brought into the Monmouth County. In times of economic constraint it's doubly important to have our financial assets work harder to grow the resources, not only of County government, but of all of our various partners.

This step with FMERA is just the latest and arguably greatest example of this kind of smart financial management.

 

Lillian G. Burry
Monmouth CountyFreeholder