Middlesex County Considers $458.5 Million Budget with Tax Increase

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Middlesex County officials are expected to vote tonight on a budget that’s nearly $19 million above last year’s tab but remains below the state-mandated 2 percent cap.

The Board of Chosen Freeholders introduced the $458.5 million budget last month. A public hearing and vote on the budget are scheduled to occur at the board’s 6 p.m. meeting tonight in the county’s administration building, 75 Bayard St., New Brunswick.

If adopted, the spending plan would enable the county to collect $380.4 million in taxes from residents of Middlesex’s 25 municipalities. That would be an increase of roughly $11.5 million from 2016’s $369 million tax levy, according to budget documents.

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“The county has and will continue to seek out ways to boost our local economy,” Freehold Director Ronald G. Rios said last month, “and keep our expenses in check to ensure we remain responsive to our taxpayers.”

The increase represents a 1 cent increase to the tax rate, according to the county. For the typical taxpayer, that averages out to roughly $20 per year, Freeholder Charles Kenny said.

Increases to operating expenses total roughly $15.5 million, according to the documents. The largest spike comes from salaries and wages, which are set to rise by $3.8 million.

But Middlesex also expects revenues to jump by $7.5 million. The county clerk expects to pull in an additional $2.8 million, and a shared-services agreement targeting the medical examiner’s office is slated to reel in another $2.8 million.

County officials plan to spend more than $50 million on capital improvements, including road construction, bridge repairs, park expansions, technology investments and upgrades to educational facilities.

The state’s new bail-reform program is expected to cost Middlesex an additional $1.9 million, with salaries included, officials said. Rios said that could cause cuts to services.

“Be assured,” he added, “that the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders will make every effort to reduce our costs and generate new revenue so we do not have to cut our services.”

This would be the sixth consecutive year that the county doesn’t need surplus funds to balance the budget. That has helped to maintain the county’s AAA bond rating, they said.

How much residents pay in taxes depends on a number of factors, including the county tax rate. School and municipal budgets also affect the total bill.

Residents pay different amounts that are based on the assessed value of their homes.

Budgets typically increase each year, but the state requires increases to stay within 2 percent, barring items that are exempt from that cap.

Middlesex County has reduced its debt by $192 million over the past three years, according to officials.

In 2016, the total budget clocked in at $439.5 million. The years 2015 and 2014 saw budgets of $430.8 million and $421.5 million, respectively.

Seven years ago, in 2010, the spending plan was reportedly $408 million.

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