ELIZABETH, NJ – The Union County Freeholders’ 2019 budget is anticipated to include a 1.75 percent tax levy increase, reduced from an initial proposal to hike taxes by 2 percent, the board’s finance committee chairman said.

As the freeholders formally introduced the spending plan on Thursday, Freeholder Vice Chairman Alexander Mirabella, who heads up the finance committee, said that the board slashed $900,000 in spending without disrupting services.

The 1.75 percent tax levy hike is the lowest increase the freeholders have proposed in 20 years, Mirabella said. An initial spending plan proposed last month had put the anticipated tax hike at 2 percent.

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“This [budget] is good for Union County, and it’s good for the services we offer and [are] providing for our residents,” Mirabella said.

Total spending is $490.197 million, marking a decrease of about $16 million from last year’s budget.

About $367 million of the budget is expected to be raised by taxation, a roughly $7 million increase over 2018. The remaining $122 million in anticipated revenue for the county is down from the 2018 figure of $145 million.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 25, at 7 p.m. prior to the regular freeholders meeting at 10 Elizabethtown Plaza in Elizabeth. The full budget is posted on the county website.

Road Resurfacing

The county is also moving forward on road resurfacing projects through 2020.

The freeholders awarded a $295,000 contract to Maser Consulting, of Red Bank, for roadway design and inspection services in 2020.

The board awarded an approximately $11 million contract to Smith-Sondy Asphalt Construction, of Wallington, for road services to be completed this year.

Code Blue

The county’s Code Blue initiative saw a 35 percent increase in children using the service this year, Department of Human Services Director Debbie-Ann Anderson said.

The Code Blue Emergency Shelter initiative provides shelter to the county’s homeless population during extreme winter conditions. A Code Blue was active for approximately 70 nights during this winter season, with an average of 900 individuals using the service, Anderson said.

Literacy Teacher of the Year

The freeholder board presented a resolution to Shalonda Archibald, who was named 2019 Literacy Teacher of the Year by the New Jersey Literacy Association.

Archibald teaches at the Maxson Middle School, in Plainfield, and has been teaching in Plainfield for 6 years, Freeholder Rebecca Williams said.

“As an advocate for children’s rights to read, I am honored and very, very humbled by this award,” Archibald said. “Thank you for your support of my work.”

Westfield Model UN Club

The Westfield Model UN Club was also recognized, after receiving the Outstanding Delegation Award at the Model UN Conference.

“The future of this county is in great hands with leaders like all of you,” said Freeholder Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded, who is herself from Westfield.

“Each one of us are honored to have you as individuals who are leading the way when it comes to our county,” said Freeholder Sergio Granados. Roughly 80 schools from the mid-Atlantic region participated in the conference, Granados said.

Brianna Vaca, a Westfield junior and member of the Westfield Model UN Club, was pleased to accept the accolades.

“We have worked really hard, and it feels great to be recognized, so thank you for giving us this opportunity,” Vaca said.