Monmouth County freeholders adopt $447M budget for 2018

The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders has adopted a $447.95 million budget to fund the operation of the county during 2018.

The budget that was adopted by the freeholders on March 19 reflected several changes from the budget that was introduced on Feb. 8.

Specifically, the freeholders reduced the amount to be collected in taxes from the county’s residential and commercial property owners from a proposed $305.5 million to $304 million. In 2017, the amount raised in taxes was $302.47 million.

The impact on a property owner’s tax bill as a result of the adoption of the 2018 county budget will not be known until a county tax rate for each of the county’s 53 municipalities is struck in June or July, according to a county spokeswoman. The county taxes a property owner pays will be determined by the county tax rate for his municipality and the assessed value of his property.

The budget introduced by the freeholders on Feb. 8 showed appropriations of $449.45 million. The revised budget adopted on March 19 showed appropriations of $447.95 million. The county’s 2017 budget totaled $445.25 million.

Changes that were made in the budget between its introduction and adoption included: freeholders salaries and wages, reduced from $152,000 to $136,900; insurance, reduced from $62.65 million to $61.48 million; public safety functions, reduced from $98.04 million to $97.86 million; and public works functions, reduced from $349.22 million to $347.72 million

In addition to property taxes, revenues in the 2018 budget include $40 million from surplus funds (savings) and $103.95 million from anticipated miscellaneous revenues.

The vote to adopt the budget was 3-1, with Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone, Freeholder Lillian Burry and Freeholder Patrick Impreveduto voting yes. Freeholder John Curley voted no. Freeholder Gerald Scharfenberger, who was recently appointed to an open seat on the board, abstained.

Arnone said, “The board has worked diligently to provide a fiscally responsible budget for our residents and businesses that allows us to continue to offer the highest level of services and facilities, while meeting all statutory requirements. We are currently using the same amount of fund balance (savings) as the revenue we regenerated during the year. This should put us in a position of future financial stability with all bond rating agencies.”

In a conversation about his vote on the budget, Curley said the last time he ran for re-election, the county tax rate was raised. The following year, when he was not on the ballot and other Republicans were, he said the freeholders reduced the tax rate.

“I reject the game-playing” with the tax rate, he said.

Curley, who is in his ninth year as a freeholder, was not nominated by the Republican Party to run for re-election this year. He said he is considering running as an independent candidate and said he has changed his affiliation from the Republican Party to unaffiliated.

The other four freeholders are Republicans.

“I think every government needs a balance, someone with a different point of view to create discussion,” he said.

Regarding the budget, Curley said, “We need more outsourcing. We have been successful with that in the past. We also have to be careful with the building craze (i.e., constructing new facilities). My point is that just because money is cheap does not mean you have to go out and borrow it. There are many areas where we can tighten our belts. There is so much waste in any bureaucracy. It is easier when we have our own house or business.”

The freeholder said one reduction has bothered him over the years. He said the freeholders have cut $6 million out of the budget for Brookdale Community College.

“That is where I think money needs to be spent,” said Curley, who earned an associate’s degree at Brookdale and a bachelor’s degree in history and government at Thomas Edison State College (now Thomas Edison State University). “I look at the vocational programs at Brookdale as a real stimulus. When we hand out diplomas to the graduates of those programs they all have jobs.”

The county budget covers the cost of providing for the maintenance of 1,000 lane miles of roads, more than 900 bridges, 16,000 acres of county parks, emergency management, 911 communications, law enforcement through the prosecutor’s and sheriff’s offices, elections, deed recording and passport services in the county clerk’s office, probate and adoptions through the surrogate’s office and more, according to a press release.

As of the 2016 Census estimate, Monmouth County’s population was 625,846.