MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County Board of Freeholders last night approved a 2018 county government budget last night that will cost homeowners an average of just $1.67 more annually in county taxes (based on an average property of $419,062) to fund services and programs provided by Morris County government.
The $305.8 million budget includes a tax rate increase of 1.79 percent. That is roughly half of the previous year’s increase.
Importantly, 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 positions the county to address emerging challenges by partnering with municipalities, constitutional offices, and others entities on a host of programs and projects.
“The 2018 budget funds key programs and services that make our county 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.
“In addition, the budget process looked far beyond 2018, 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.’’
The fiscally sensible 2018 budget allows the county to remain financially and operationally efficient; maintains and expands public safety initiatives; sustains all human services programs, while enhancing tools needed to battle the opioid epidemic and to address the needs of 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 fund balance required for well-run, top-ranked county governments.
Also, the freeholders have maintained the county’s voter-approved preservation trust fund to finance open space, farmland and historic preservation, and recreational trails and flood mitigation.
To ensure that the county’s infrastructure remains sound, $31.1 million in capital projects are included, with resurfacing 24 miles of county roads, construction and/or design of 11 bridges, improvements to the county’s railroads, and the preliminary design of a new county courthouse included in the fiscal package.
“We are stabilizing the county tax effort, employing prudent debt practices, and maintaining a solid countywide infrastructure through prioritized spending that provides fiscal flexibility,’’ said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, a member of the budget subcommittee. “Also, 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.’’
“This budget offers financial stability in the use of our reserves while supporting the continuation of the county’s Top-rated Triple A bond rating,’’ said Freeholder and Budget Subcommittee Member Deborah Smith. “We carefully scrutinized all aspects of our county operations to ensure that we operate in a lean manner, with a modern, efficient and cost effective operation.’’
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 click here.
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.