def #40 03/09/11
FREEHOLDERS UNVEIL 2011 COUNTY BUDGET
TOMS RIVER - Sticking to its assurances of no surprises, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders today unveiled a
proposed 2011 county budget that continues to focus on funding vital and core county services.
"Sound fiscal planning has allowed us to stay within a very restrictive 2 percent cap even though we are preparing to open
an expanded jail facility and providing increased funding for programs that help the most vulnerable citizens in Ocean County,"
said Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the county’s Finance Department.
Under the proposed spending package, which totals $352,696,353, taxpayers will see a slight increase in their county property tax
rate of less than a penny bringing the rate to about 28 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
The budget will be introduced during the 4 p.m., March 16 meeting of the Board of Freeholders and a public hearing has been
scheduled for the April 20th board meeting which also begins at 4 p.m. The meetings are held in Room 119 of the Ocean County
Administration Building, 101 Hooper Ave., here.
Bartlett noted the budget document shows the budget up $4.7 million, however, he said $1.3 million of that would be reimbursed to
the county by Ocean County College and from Build America Bonds.
"The $3.4 million increase represents a 1 percent increase in the county budget," Bartlett said.
Bartlett said about $2.5 million of the increase will be used to operate the county jail which has been expanded by 140,000 square
feet, providing space for more than 600 inmates and meeting the requirements of the state Department of Corrections.
The current jail inmate population is approximately 550 inmates daily. The original design capacity for the current jail was 280
beds combined with the addition’s capacity raises the number of beds to 680.
"Expanding the Ocean County Jail has been planned for a number of years," Bartlett said. "This year, we will open the new addition
which has resulted in the need for additional corrections officers and increased operating costs."
Bartlett said the county budget increase also covers an increase in the board’s funding to the Board of Social Services by almost
$600,000, to $19,976,003.
"During these difficult economic times, there is a greater need for general assistance programs and the Board of Social Services
provides a financial lifeline to many people who are making an effort to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables,"
said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to Social Services. "This additional funding will help our most vulnerable
and needy residents."
The amount to be raised by taxation in the proposed budget is $293,281,351, up about 2.2 percent.
Bartlett noted the county’s salary and wage account is down by $1.4 million in the proposed spending package and the number of
positions has been reduced by 62.
"We have reduced the number of positions by 127 total in this proposed budget and in last year’s budget," Bartlett said.
"The 62 positions in the 2011 budget equates to a savings of $2.8 million."
Bartlett said since the county had to hire 28 additional corrections officers for the expanded jail facility, the savings
in salaries was reduced to about half.
Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said the proposed spending package continues to fund key services for Ocean County
residents while continuing to decrease the size of county government where possible.
"These are difficult financial times and we know our residents and taxpayers are having a hard time making ends meet,"
Vicari said. "We are making every effort to keep Ocean County affordable while providing quality services to our residents.
"This budget makes certain that streets are plowed when it snows, potholes will be filled on the more than 620 miles of roadways
the county maintains, nutritious hot meals will be delivered to our seniors, our most vulnerable residents will be provided with
social services, and students will continue to get quality educations at Ocean County College and at our vocational technical
schools," Vicari said.
Vicari, who also serves as Chairman of Senior Services, said that department’s budget remained flat at $1.6 million.
Bartlett said the funding provided to Ocean County College was decreased by $500,000, however that amount was made up by the work
done by Ocean County’s Road Department in clearing several acres of land at the college campus to prepare for the construction of
the new gateway building that will house the OCC and Kean partnership.
"The amount of work done by the road department would have cost far in excess of $1 million had it been done by someone
else," said Freeholder James F. Lacey, who serves as liaison to roads.
He noted the budget includes $1 million funding to continue the county’s ongoing efforts in improving stormwater management.
"These are important programs that protect and preserve our environment and our waterways," he said.
Lacey said the excessive snow fall this winter also added to county’s road costs.
"The December storm alone cost us more than $866,000," Lacey said. "We are hoping to recoup much of that money from federal
Bartlett said the county will continue to effectuate savings throughout the budget year and will continue to look at ways
to reduce and cutback.
"It has been the policy of this Board to plan ahead in our budget process which has allowed us to stay ahead of these
difficult economic times," Bartlett said. "This budget reflects the realities of this county government. It will allow us to keep
our AAA bond rating, which helps us save money on interest, and provide vital services and it holds no surprises."