Freeholders Adopt 2019 County Budget

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MORRIS COUNTY —  The Morris County Board of Freeholders adopted county government’s 2019 budget, which slightly increases the average tax levy to pay for enhanced social services, public safety, education, modern technology, and a strong emphasis on maintaining the county’s vital road, bridge, and facilities infrastructure.

County homeowners will pay an average of just $11 more annually, or 0.94 cents per month, in county taxes this year to finance programs and services included in the county’s $315.3 million 2019 county budget.

“We carefully scrutinized county operations to make sure we run a modern, efficient and cost effective county government,’’ said Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “This is fair and balanced budget, which incorporates all current critical needs of our residents while taking a far-reaching look at the county’s future.’’

The operating budget incorporate important public safety and social services initiatives, offered in many cases with nonprofit providers, and dealing with school safety, the opioid epidemic, childcare, emergency medical services, and other services for the county’s most vulnerable residents.

The budget positions the county to address emerging challenges and needs by partnering with its 39 municipalities, constitutional offices, nonprofits, and others entities on a variety of programs and projects.

It also addresses the need to maintain the county’s roads and bridges, and its technology, law enforcement, public safety, educational and recreational infrastructure that are key to the county’s high quality of life.

“This  2019 budget ensures that our county will remain the premier place in New Jersey in which to live, work, and raise a family,’’ said Freeholder Heather Darling, chair of the freeholders’ budget subcommittee. Other members are Freeholders Kathy DeFillippo and Deborah Smith.

“It was developed in coordination with the county’s strategic plan, adhering to guiding principles developed in that plan, in concert with the county’s municipal, school, business, healthcare, nonprofit and community leaders.’’

While maintaining a tight rein on spending, the 2019 budget invests in key programs and initiatives that maintain the high quality of life in the county:

  • Maintains and expands public safety initiatives;
  • Sustains all human services programs;
  • Enhances Stigma-Free tools to deal with opioids and mental health issues;
  • Addresses the needs of our military veterans.
  • Continues the preservation trust fund that finances open space, farmland and historic preservation, and funds recreational trails and flood mitigation projects.

The budget also supports countywide economic development, protects the top-ranked Triple A bond rating, and preserves a stable level of fund balance required for well-run county governments.

Some new and expanded programs, to be done through partnerships, include:

  • Expanding Morris County’s EMS Initiative, to offer two additional backup units for as-needed emergency response service to all 39 Morris County municipalities;
  • Rolling out “Navigating Hope,’’ which will deliver critical social services programs into the community, and will partner with the Sheriff’s Hope One opioid initiative;
  • Expanding investments in community based Human Services programs operated and managed by nonprofit agencies within the county;
  • Creating a Ballistics Laboratory in the Sheriff’s Office, to support law enforcement;
  • Supporting the Responsible School Violence Prevention Program for school districts;
  • Developing a new services-oriented county website, and new electronic online forms system for public interaction with county government;
  • Increased funding for the county park system;
  • Addressing the Emerald Ash Borer countywide tree infestation.

The 2019 budget strategically authorizes $33.5 million to responsibly deal with critical infrastructure needs, including county roads and bridges; public safety technology and security enhancements; parks, education and building maintenance needs.

This portion of the budget was reviewed by a subcommittee of the Freeholder Board that included Freeholders Tom Mastrangelo, John Krickus and Stephen Shaw.

$18.8 million is dedicated for public works initiatives and includes:

  • Resurfacing of 25.3 miles of county roads;
  • Construction of six bridges and design of nine bridges;
  • Morris View Healthcare, Historic Courthouse and other facilities maintenance projects.

The planned $7.8 million earmarked for bridge projects (combined with federal and state dollars) is the highest amount allocated for bridge repair and replacement in six years. Projects will target the county’s lowest rated bridges to ensure continued safety.

Some other major capital funding:

  • $6.7 million: County College of Morris campus upgrades, including construction of Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Center;
  • $6.6 million: 9-1-1 Communications Center technology upgrades;
  • $2.2 million: Information Technology equipment and upgrades;
  • $1.9 million: Park Commission improvements, including renovation of Lees Marina;
  • $1.6 million: Morris County School of Technology upgrades;
  • $1.2 million: Head Start Program expansion and renovation (loan to be repaid);

View the county’s 2019 budget by clicking here.

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