MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County Board of Freeholders adopted a $332.1 million 2017 budget last night, a fiscal package that will cost homeowners an average of just $18 more annually in property taxes to fund the services and programs provided by Morris County government.
The new budget, approved at the Freeholder Board’s meeting held in Morris Plains, includes a tax rate increase of 1.79 percent, which remains within a state-set cap and provides level spending in most areas except for contractual employee health insurance, which increased by $6 million.
The fiscally prudent budget allows the county to remain financially and operationally efficient; maintains, and in some areas, expands public safety initiatives; sustains all human services programs, and ensures maintenance of all countywide infrastructure projects.
It supports 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. The budget maintains stable funding for key county programs and services, including the county park system, county library, County College of Morris and Morris County School of Technology, while ensuring continued maintenance and improvements to the county’s road network.
In addition, the freeholders are maintaining the county’s voter-approved preservation trust fund that finances important open space, farmland and historic preservation projects, and provides money for recreational trails and flood mitigation.
“Through this budget, Morris 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. “Our county will continue deliver vital services to our residents while building a vibrant and sustainable economy and preserving our natural resources and history.’’
“This fiscal package allows us to assure a safe, well-maintained infrastructure and offer cultural and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike,’’ said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, a member of the budget subcommittee. “We will continue to offer compassionate support to those in need and maintain our tradition as a caring community.’’
The 2017 Operating Budget represents a “Year of Transition, featuring initiatives such as outsourcing of the Morris View Healthcare Center and introduction of a county-wide EMS Program.
It also includes a full year of costs related to Criminal Justice Reform, completion of the remaining Renewable Energy Sites in the county’s Solar II Program, are all conservatively presented.
“We scrutinized all aspects of county government, reviewing every area to ensure there is no wasteful spending, with a goal of running a modern, efficient and cost effective operation,’’ said Freeholder and Budget Subcommittee Member Deborah Smith. “At the same time, the Freeholder Board continues to look at the bigger picture, at long-term needs such as a new or revised court complex, to properly plan for the future while ensuring the effective and ethical stewardship of our residents’ hard earned tax dollars.’’
While maintaining a tight rein on spending, the freeholders’ proposed 2017 budget continues to invest in key programs and initiatives that maintain the high quality of life in the county.
Ongoing Investments in Education, Recreation, and Human Services, include:
- $13.7 million: Morris County Park Commission
- $11.8 million: County College of Morris
- $7 million: Community Based Human Services Agencies
- $6.2 million: Morris County School of Technology
- $5.1 million: Morris County Library and Heritage Commission
- $400,000: Economic Development and Tourism
The 2017 capital budget strategically authorizes $27.1 million to responsibly deal with critical infrastructure needs, with a continued emphasis on:
- $7.8 million: Road improvements, to continue upgrading the county’s road network;
- $4 million: Building and Structure Improvements, including Criminal Justice Reform;
- $2.4 million: Bridge design and replacement projects;
- $2.3 million: Law and Public Safety Equipment;
- $2.2 million: Educational facilities;
- $2.2 million: Public Works Equipment
- $1.5 million: Information Technology
The 2017 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