Amount to be raised by taxation remains flat for 4th year
FREEHOLD, NJ – The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a $481 million budget last night. The budget contains a $6.35 million decrease in spending from last year and holds the amount to be raised by taxation flat for the fourth year in a row.
“We continue to face the pressures of increased fixed costs and reduced revenues, but were able to reduce the total budget below 2008 levels and maintain a zero increase to the tax levy,” Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone said. “This board was able to reduce the impact on the taxpayers because our County departments reduced their proportionate budget allocations.”
As adopted, the budget is down by $6,350,000, or 1.3 percent, from the 2012 budget, bringing County spending down below the 2008 level. The amount to be raised by taxation is $302,475,000, the same as it was in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The spending plan reflects a continued effort by the freeholder board to reduce County spending to close an anticipated $8 million budget shortfall caused by a drop in revenues while recovery from superstorm Sandy continues.
Freeholder Deputy Director Serena DiMaso said that Monmouth County’s prudent fiscal actions are evident in the maintenance of its AAA bond rating from all three major bond-rating agencies.
“Monmouth County has held this rating for 14 years. Only a few dozen counties nationwide achieve this rating each year and even fewer counties maintain the rating for multiple years,” DiMaso said. “The County’s most recent review by the ratings agencies evaluated superstorm Sandy’s economic impact to Monmouth County. Among the rating agency comments was that our County will withstand the superstorm’s near-term effects because of the proactive steps we took to quantify the immediate effect on the property tax base so that we could budget appropriately for 2013.”
Freeholder Gary J. Rich, who oversees the county’s Finance Department, said the spending cuts that the County began in 2008 have helped subsequent county budgets.
“At that time the financial reports began to forecast a slowing economy,” said Rich. “The County has consistently reduced departmental budgets and embraced shared services while also employing wage freezes and lay-offs. As a result, the County has reduced its workforce by 15 percent since 2008. That is a significant savings when you consider how it impacts pension contributions and health benefits.”
“Our responsibility to find ways to provide government services without placing a great burden on taxpayers,” Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said. “Revenue continues to be down and our tax base is struggling to recover from superstorm Sandy; yet, as a board we continue to find ways to meet these budgetary challenges.”
The County budget was introduced on February 28 and public budget hearings were held on March 5, March 19 and prior to adoption last night.
“Monmouth County has done an exceptional job in controlling costs in light of the loss and devastation of the tax base in our coastal municipalities,” Freeholder John P. Curley said. “The County continues to uphold its responsibility to manage the public trust.”
“Despite the challenge to provide services in a sluggish economy and in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the county continues to be a state leader in creating new revenue streams with programs like shared services,” Arnone said.
Monmouth County relies less on taxes than 17 other New Jersey counties. As a percentage of the overall budget, Monmouth County’s taxes comprise 62.07 percent of the total budget – behind Union, Hudson and Essex counties.
By comparison, the amount of taxes as a percentage of the overall budget is 84 percent in Ocean County, 82 percent in Mercer and Camden and 81 percent in Middlesex County.
“The department heads deserve a lot of credit for their hard work in paring down the budget,” said County Finance Director Craig R. Marshall. “This is the fifth year in which we asked for concessions from the departments and, as a result, this is the fourth year in which the tax levy has remained the same.”