FLEMINGTON, NJ -  Hunterdon's Freeholders approved their 2018 budget yesterday afternoon. The $87.78 million spending plan is about $982,000 less than last year’s $88.76 million county budget.

It is the fifth consecutive year that the Freeholders have cut the budget.

The savings is the result of “cost savings and financial planning,” said Freeholder Director Matt Holt. “It is substantially lower than the nearly $100 million county budget from over a decade ago.”

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The county tax rate, which has been held steady by the Freeholders at 30.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value for four straight years, will be 31.5 cents under the new budget. That’s an increase of about 1.94 percent.

The increase in the tax rate is the result of a decrease in “non-tax revenues,” Holt said, but is still lower than the tax rate in 2005.

“The budget continues the Freeholders pay-as-you-go policy for capital improvements,” Holt said. That means the budget continues to include no debt or debt service, and “provides for the numerous county shared service programs that save costs for our municipalities and taxpayers.”

The budget protects services to Hunterdon’s most vulnerable residents, Freeholder John Lanza said. “ It also continues to make needed investments in key areas, such as public safety, health services, and upgrades to our park system, which helps to maintain Hunterdon County’s unique quality of life.”

County government is seeing the dividends from investments in technology, Holt said, “which have resulted in the streamlining of government operations, shared services, and the use of private sector contractors ... to help deliver cost savings.”

Lanza noted the stark difference between Hunterdon’s budget and the state budget proposed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy’s budget “increases state spending by nearly 8 percent and contains nearly $1.5 billion in tax increases,” Lanza said.

County taxes comprise about 13 percent of the typical property tax bill in Hunterdon. School taxes take the biggest slice of the budget pie – about 68 percent – according to data released by the Freeholders.