Freeholders Announce Zero Percent Increase In County Taxes

Freeholders Space and Crabb and Attorney Dennis McConnell Credits: Jennifer Murphy

NEWTON, NJ – Parker Space banged the gavel on his last Sussex County Freeholders Meeting on March 13, after receiving well wishes from his fellow freeholders, and members of the public. 

“When this meeting is over, I will be resigning [as freeholder director]," said Space. “My confirmation hearing has been set for March 21, 2013.”

Space was voted in as New Jersey Assemblyman on Feb. 23, after Gary Chiusano was appointed Sussex County Surrogate by Governor Chris Christie.

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The main business of the meeting was to announce that Space, freeholder Richard Vohden, and county staff, met to finalize the new budget.  

"There will be a zero percent increase in county taxes this year,” announced Vohden, during his comments.

Vohden also reported that the Sussex County Historical Society invited local historians, and members of Municipal Historical Societies from all over the county to convene at the Hill Memorial on March 11, to form a county-wide alliance. Over a dozen groups came together, for the purpose of promoting interest in the history of Sussex County and increasing agro-tourism (for previous article, click here). The group is planning events to take place at Sussex County Community College.

Vohden announced that the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority endorsed a map outlining newly designated urban areas, based on the expanded population from the 2010 Census Report. “It doubled the amount of urban area in Sussex County.”

Delays on the Lackawanna Cutoff are attributed to two issues, which were not identified at the time the project began.  One is that a stream has since been designated as Category 1, requiring 600 feet of buffer on either side. The other is that extra funding is needed for the Roseville Tunnel, which is 1,000 feet long and wide enough for two trains. There is a hazard of falling rocks. In days gone by, a watchman was hired 24 hours a day to warn trains of falling rock. Dealing with this issue will be an expensive addition to the project.

Freeholder Phillip Crabb reported progress on the Franklin Viaduct is going well. He took a group on a tour, and found the old stone arch under the railroad tracks. He explained that looking around at the area now is akin to opening a time capsule from days gone by.

Freeholder Dennis Mudrick congratulated Scott Byers of Sparta, who recently held his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  Freeholders issued a proclamation for him at this meeting.

Mudrick also reported about a liturgy held for the St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers, followed by a breakfast at the Irish Cottage Inn.

Freeholder Gail Phoebus reported that she is attending all meetings for which she is liaison, and all is going smoothly.

The consent agenda included authorization to apply for grants to repair several Sussex County bridges, one on CR 565 (Branchville-Lewisburg Road) in Wantage over the Papakating Creek for $1,000,000 with the county paying $420,000; one on Passaic Avenue in Ogdensburg over the Wallkill River for $800,000, with the county paying $170,000; and a third for additional funding to replace the Franklin Viaduct. Authorization was given to close the Berry Road bridge in Wantage, and to set up a detour.

Allocations were given to the following municipal alliances for the provision of substance abuse prevention programs:  Franklin/Hardyston, Hopatcong, Lenape, Ogdensburg, Sandyston, Stillwater, Sparta, Sussex/Wantage, and Vernon.

The board made a resolution to oppose Assembly Bill A-3780, which would require municipal tax assessors to use property sales data from “short sale” transactions for the purpose of establishing comparable sales when “short sales” represent an average of more than 20% of total property sales over a three year period.  (for previous article, click here)

During the open public session, Frankford Committeeman Gary Larson complimented the board on its zero percent increase. He reported that next Tuesday, Frankford will announce a $7 per household increase this year. He congratulated Space.

Stanhope Councilman George Graham echoed his sentiments, thanking Space for his years of service, and adding, “The zero percent increase sends a message all over throughout the county.”

Ann Smulewicz also said good luck to Space, and complimented them on the zero percent increase.

Smulewicz then criticized the county’s Veteran’s Discount Program, saying that small businesses are tapped with people asking them for donations. She does not agree that the Sussex County Clerk, Jeffrey M. Parrott should administer this program, or ask for more donations.

Each of the freeholders and John Eskilson, County Administrator all extended their best wishes to Space, who promised to continue to be attentive to the county needs. Space also extended his gratitude to each of his fellow freeholders, and to Elaine Morgan, clerk of the board.

The Board met for a closed session.

The next meeting will be on March 27 at 5:00 p.m.



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