Earned Income Tax Credit And Other Topics Discussed At First Sussex County Freeholder Meeting Of 2013

2013 Board of Chosen Freeholders of Sussex County Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Newly elected Freeholder Dennis Mudrick Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Newly elected Freeholder Gail Phoebus Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Mary Emilius of United Way addresses the board Credits: Jennifer Murphy

NEWTON, NJ – Newly elected Freeholder Director Parker Space opened the first freeholder meeting on January 16. In the first item of business, Mary Emilius of United Way stepped forward to receive a proclamation declaring January 25, 2013 as “Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day.”

Emilius informed the public that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an important tool to help working families stay out of poverty, however, very few people know about it or apply for it. 

“There are billions of dollars in Washington that no one is claiming,” Emilius said.

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For example, if you have three or more qualifying children and you earned less than $45,060 in 2012, ($50,270 if married and filing jointly) you could get a refund of $5,891. There are guidelines for wages of varying size of household. Further, if you are eligible for the federal EITC, you may also qualify for a similar credit from the State of New Jersey.

If you are a low to moderate income earner, have a disability, or are non-English speaking and you need help filing your Income Tax Returns, free help is available by appointment only, at the Center for Prevention and Counseling, United Way of Northern New Jersey, and at the Senior Center at Knoll View in Sparta, beginning January 21, and continuing through tax season.

During Freeholder comments, Dennis Mudrick reported that he was able to attend many municipal reorganization meetings last week, and complimented the county on the diverse, but committed group of people, working for the benefit of the communities.

Mudrick reported that the League of Municipalities held a reorganization meeting; Mayor Carl Lazarro of Fredon was elected president, Anita Straway, Stillwater Councilwoman, is vice-president, George Graham, Stanhope Councilman, is the secretary/treasurer.

Mudrick attended the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Winter Solstice Exhibit, where some residents showcased their art, and he complimented the exhibit.

Mudrick then recognized the public safety and law enforcement officers of the county, including the fire, police, EMT and Sheriff’s Department, who put their lives on the line every day.  He acknowledged Sheriff’s Officer Jason Kimble, who suffered a broken leg and minor concussion while doing his job, and Bill Martin, long-time EMT driver, who suffered a heart attack while driving a patient to a medivac site, and thanked them for their dedication.

Gail Phoebus reported that she began working on the capital budget earlier on Wednesday with Freeholder Richard Vohden. Sussex County Administrator John Eskilson, Eric Snyder, and Phoebus, are starting an outreach program on Economic Development, to see if any towns would like to work together to try to attract ratables to Sussex County. 

“It is such a beautiful county," Phoebus said. "If we streamline the process, I think it will be very attractive for some businesses to move here.”

Vohden reported that the Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) heard a presentation from a company named Back Thru the Future, of Franklin, that can perform a computer hard drive shredder operation on location, where they will come to a person's home or office to destroy their hard drive, another method of recycling computers, eliminating waste, and protecting confidential information.The freeholders will be considering a resolution about it at the next meeting.

Vohden reported that at the last North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) meeting, former freeholder Susan Zellman, received the prestigious Distinguished Service Award during a special ceremony, for her twelve years of service, including two years as chair of the group. 

The NJTPA is a federally authorized planning organization for thirteen counties in northern New Jersey. Each year, they oversee more than $2 billion towards transportation improvement projects, including projects in Sussex County, for example the 206 project in Byram, the 517 upgrade from Rt. 23 to Rt. 94, the Lackawanna Cutoff, and a list of bridges in the county. 

Vohden was appointed to the Project Prioritization Committee. 

“They get a long list of projects, and decide which projects should be completed first,” he explained. 

Space thanked everyone for the confidence in electing him as Director this year. He reported that Tammy Horsfeld, of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce still has a few tickets left for their annual dinner next Saturday. Space encouraged residents to support local businesses. 

He said, “A good portion of our firefighters, first responders, and EMT’s own local businesses, because they are here, available when you have the need. It’s really important that we support them, so that they, in turn, can support you.” 

Space also addressed President Barack Obama’s gun control agenda. 

“If anybody knew how strict the gun control laws were in New Jersey, they’d be surprised how tough it is. I’m a strong supporter of the second amendment,” he said.

The freeholders passed a resolution for the final approval for the Max Klein farm, in Fredon Township, subject to available funding. The Sussex County Agricultural Development Board receives applications on an annual basis for preservation. The board will then visit each farm to see if it meets the criteria, then arranges for an appraisal. The owners continue to own the farm, but they sell the development rights in a non-severable arrangement. They can add one house or one barn, but cannot sell it to a developer. 

Vohden remarked, “I did some quick calculations before the meeting, even though this is a small farm, it will take us above 17,000 acres of preserved farmland in Sussex County. It is important because of the contiguous preserved farm adjoining it.”

The county will enter into a shared services agreement with the Town of Newton for maintenance of municipal owned traffic signals and flashing warning devices. 

The sheriff’s office will purchase a Dodge Ram 4x4 pickup truck in the amount of $31,913.77.

The bridge on Roseville Road in Byram Township will receive engineering services in the amount of $55,070.

Space will be signing the subgrant award for the 2012 sexual assault response team/sexual assault nurse examiner project, in the amount of $54,925 from New Jersey, and $13,731 from the county.

There are vacancies on the Human Services Advisory Committee, the Local Advisory Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority, and the Sussex County Planning Board, as there were a number of resignations. Vohden commented that the committee chair of each group will meet with the liaison to scout out some good replacements. 

Space replied, “Yes, each and every one of these positions is very important, if anybody has any interest or qualification, please contact Elaine Morgan, the clerk of the Board of Freeholders."

John Eskilson, County Administrator, reported that a site plan is nearly ready to go to the Sparta Planning Board for signature, there will be a resolution at the next freeholder meeting about it. There will be maps with grade layouts of the site.

Phoebus reported that during her time in Andover Township, she headed a project on Affordable Housing.  “Everyone knows it as the Abbey Building on Rt. 206 south. There is a developer that wants to do the project, they will be putting $20 million into it, but they were short $4 million for the sewage treatment plant. The Abbey is not selling the property, they are leasing it for 45 years.  The county was so supportive, when I contacted the 24th District, Senator Oroho actually brought the director of the Department of Community Affairs, but there was very little available statewide.”

She continued, “Oroho was kind enough to contact the US Department of Agriculture for us. They think it’s a great project, they have the funding and it fits their needs.” 

There will be 21 affordable units for seniors, and another three buildings with two to three bedroom apartments for families and a playground.

 “The county has been kind enough to help with a walking trail to the Muckshaw Preserve," said Phoebus. "There will be a garden for people to grow their own vegetables. It just shows what happens when the town, county and state all work together to make things happen.”

During the open public session, Linda Ward, of Catholic Families, thanked the board for what she described as being diligent, kind and responsive to the needs of seniors. She announced that since the funds have been cut, she will no longer be working for Catholic Charities, but will continue to advocate for their needs.

Ann Smulewicz complimented the new board members on how they ran their campaign, and welcomed them to the board.

Freeholder Phillip Crabb was absent from the meeting.


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