SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders has introduced a proposed county budget for 2019 that preserves needed services for the county’s more than 335,000 citizens and maintains the county’s triple-A bond rating.

The proposed $238,830,945 county budget includes $197,696,981 to be raised by taxation. The 2019 county tax rate will increase by 1.30 percent, from .3177 to .3218 per $100 of assessed value. The average county home valued at $436,652 will see an overall county tax increase of $37.62 for the year.

The tax increase does not reflect local municipal and school taxes; those taxes are calculated and assessed by each of the county's townships and boroughs.

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“We recognize that we have an obligation to taxpayers to operate efficiently and effectively while continuing to provide essential services and maintain the county’s exceptional triple-A bond rating,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Patricia L. Walsh, finance committee chair. “This year, we’ve kept the increase in our costs to 1.7 percent, which is within the 2-percent state cap. Somerset County is known for our prudent management of county resources and our efforts to keep costs down. For example, we’ve kept the cost of the county’s health benefits flat for two years in a row. That is outstanding, especially considering that the average increase for other governmental entities has been 5 to 6 percent over the past couple of years.”

A public hearing on the county budget proposal is set for Tuesday, May 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the county administration building at 20 Grove St.

Freeholder Director Brian D. Levine added, "As freeholder director and a CPA, I understand the importance of fiscal responsibility, and I can tell you that Somerset County provides high-quality services and programs as efficiently as anyone. And we share those efficiencies and cost savings with our municipalities and other local agencies by funding almost 200 shared services.”

“It is not by accident that Somerset County is consistently ranked in the top tier of desirable places to live, work and raise a family,” said Freeholder Sara Sooy, alternate finance committee liaison. “We work hard to maintain the high quality of life that residents and businesses have come to expect.”

Somerset County also has retained its triple-A ranking from the major bond-rating services: Moody’s, Fitch’s and Standard & Poor’s.

The proposed 2019 county budget will:

•        Keep health-benefits costs flat for the second year in a row.

•        Fully fund the county employee health center.

•        Fully fund the Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy.

•        Maintain 248 centerline miles of county roads and 752 bridges.

•        Maintain 38 park, recreation and open space areas encompassing 15,000 acres.

•        Provide nearly 200 shared services with local governments and other organizations in the county.

•        Provide partial funding for the Vocational-Technical High School, Raritan Valley Community College, Board of Social Services, Somerset County Business Partnership and Somerset County Park Commission.

The budget includes the following shared services that save taxpayer dollars:

•        Recycling for all 21 municipalities, including schools.

•        Transportation services for three municipalities and four nonprofit organizations.

•        Vehicle maintenance for 14 municipalities.

•        Vehicle fueling for more than 50 agencies.

•        Statewide emergency services training.

•        Health services for eight municipalities.

•        Housing inmates from Hunterdon County.

Somerset County covers all costs for the following services that benefit residents:

•        911 public safety answering points (PSAPs) for 20 municipalities.

•        Full dispatch service for 15 municipalities, 14 police departments, 39 fire departments and 17 EMS stations.

•        A statewide cooperative purchasing program.

Visit http://bit.ly/SCBudget19 to view the budget document and budget presentation.