January 13, 2014 at 4:32 PM
WEST ORANGE, NJ – Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo presented the 2014 Essex County budget on Jan. 10, and it includes a tax hike of approximately $65.00 for Essex County residents.
DiVincenzo, who announced that he is running for a fourth term on December 9, debuted his budget with a 1.5% tax levy increase, citing that it will help to stabilize the County's financial plan while addressing ongoing economic conditions.
“Introducing our budget in January provides our Department and Division Directors and Constitutional Officers with a solid framework to operate throughout the year and gives our municipal partners and constituents a clear snapshot of what to expect from the county,” DiVincenzo said.
In addition to preventing layoffs and furloughs, the $749 million dollar budget addresses the following:
A $1.5 million dollar reserve for additional snow removal (the current budget is $3.5 million); $4.1 million to a dedicated reserve to cover the "27th Payroll Period" that will cost the county $10.5 million in 2015; and a $4 million fund balance to be used as revenue.
DiVincenzo considers that "This rigorous planning and constant vigilance has helped us to respond proactively when we are faced with challenges brought on by the national economy, natural disasters or new laws.”
Information released by DIVincenzo's office notes that "Over the last 12 years, Essex County has held the increase in property taxes to 2.81 percent, which is the fifth lowest percentage increase in the state behind Hunterdon (0.57 percent), Monmouth (2.30 percent), Somerset (2.35 percent) and Burlington (2.50 percent) counties. Over the last three years, the County property tax increase has been held to just 1.7 percent."
Several facilities are expected to continue generating revenues via shared services agreements: $40.5 million from the Essex County Correctional Facility for federal inmates; $14.1 million from the state for patients from Gloucester, Passaic and Middlesex counties to the Essex County Hospital Center; and $4.1 million for housing Passaic County juveniles at the Essex County Juvenile Detention Facility.
The county expects to see $11.5 million in Essex County Parks Department revenues, slightly down from last year's $11.9 million.
DiVincenzo noted that the county would save $1.14 million with bond ordinance refinancing. Open positions have remained unfilled unless it is important for public safety, such as nurses or corrections officers. He cited that pension costs have increased $3.6 million to a total of $36.5 million and that health insurance and prescription costs have increased $2.6 million to a total of $62 million. Since 2003, the Essex County workforce has been reduced from 4,000 employees in 2003 to 3,498 in 2014.
The County Executive will continue to work on the county's credit rating, bringing it from its current AA-2 to AAA. The budget proposal has been sent to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for their review.